It was 30 years ago that Sir Clive Sinclair launched the highly competitively priced ZX Spectrum onto the high street and without it many of us would not be sitting here today.
In 1982 the ZX Spectrum launched as a competitor to the BBC Micro and the C64 making computing accessible in the home to many for the first time. I picked up my first ZX Spectrum in 1982 and I can still recolect the day my father purchasing the computer for me at the John Menzies in the St James Centre in Edinburgh after I constantly whined for one. I was 10 at the time. I remember seeing a friend’s ZX80, the spectrum’s predecessor, and thinking I really must have one of these.
The ZX Spectrum came in two versions the 16K at £125 and the 48K which sold for the princely sum of £175. The 48K was the obvious choice for me and fortunately my father’s wallet could stretch to the more powerful machine. I have a lot to thank my father for, it set me on my way in the world of computing and videogaming, and without it I would not have embarked on my current career, in fact IncGamers would probably have never existed.
The ZX Spectrum spawned a generation of gamers and programmers, who through trial and error, started creating games for the first time. It’s some of these games that helped make the industry what it is today, especially here in the UK.
With Spectrum sales booming in the early years, magazines supporting the platforms started hitting the shelves of all good news agents. Who can forget the likes of CRASH which would often provide sample code to try out which would encourage new programmers to play with the Spectrum and help them realise its potential.
I still remember trying a code sample for a very basic version of hang man, and even though I was simply copying the code from the magazine, it helped me understand how everything was pieced together, there was a real sense of achievement when it actually worked. With these code samples, making a basic game in your own home was now a reality and was very inspiring.
When it came to the games on the Spectrum, who can forget classics such as Jet Set Willy, Manic Miner, Jetpac, Atic Atac, Scuba Dive, Saboteur, Match Day, The Hobbit, well the list goes on and on.
There were just so many great games coming out for the Spectrum throughout its lifespan between 1982 and 1992 that the Spectrum captured the imagination of gamers everywhere. It was the gaming machine to own, even if your friends who had a C64 insisted theirs was better.
New models appeared on the market , the ZX Spectrum+ in 1984 which did away with the fleshy keyboard and the more powerful ZX Spectrum 128k. However, neither of these felt quite the same as the good old fleshy keyboard Spectrum users had come to know and love.
Eventually Sir Clive sold on the Spectrum to Alan Sugar’s Amstrad and it survived for a further six years, but after the move to Amstrad, some of the magic was lost. With Apple machines and early PCs becoming more popular, the writing was on the wall for the Spectrum by the late eigthies.
There’s no doubt that the Spectrum played a massive part in the life of computing and we have to salute Sir Clive for his vision. Happy 30th Spectrum.
If you fancy trying out some of the classic games via the web, head to http://www.zxspectrum.net/ where there is a great selection you can play in your browser. They all look terrible now but they impressed us all 30 years go.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.