The Speccy turns 30!

Happy birthday to what must be Sir Clives’ greatest invention, the ZX Spectrum. Originally rubber-keyed and with 16K of memory (I’ve written longer blog posts!), the Speccy went on to be one of the largest selling computers during the 1980s, and to a lesser extent, the 1990s.

But, you already knew that, and as Glen suggested on Farcebook, I should write a bog about it. I’ll base it around my own memory, and quite an extensive one at that.

I remember Daddykins coming in from work with a huge box under his arm. It was meant to be for my upcoming 5th birthday, but seeing as I’d already seen it, I was given it early. Imagine my excitement. I was fascinated by Ceefax (RIP) at such an early age, and to be able to have my very own computer at that age was a dream come true. It was probably this, that made my parents get me the computer. I’d received it with a load of “educational” games such as ‘Learn to Read III’, “Alphabet Games”, “Magnets”, “Make a Chip” and a number of other games. I could probably name them all, but I’d be here all day, and I’m going to the pub in a few hours, that’s not going to happen.

The first game that was bought for it, came on the same night we’d received it. It was a simple, turn based strategy game called “Viking Raiders“. Daddykins had picked it up from the local newsagents. Imagine that, buying a game the same time you buy a paper…

I’m amazed at such an early age, how much I taught myself about programming, entirely subconsciously. There’d be many times I’d press the Break key and alter games to make them easier. One of these was the afore-mentioned “Alphabet Games”. If you altered one of the lines which contained the graphics of the mouse character and placed it with a load of nonsensical gibberish, you could score a whole load of points more than what you were supposed to. This game also became the first time I had ever experienced tape-tangle. Cassette tapes were never the sturdiest of media, and obviously I know that now, but the noises it made when it went funny, and the sight of loose tape everywhere scarred me for a good few months. I remember having to get Daddykins to load my tapes because I was scared I’d break it again. I’m happy to report that the game still worked, and I’d like to know if it still works, except I have no idea where my tapes are.

Next up on the “games bought” list was a compilation… “They Sold a Million“, with Sabre Wulf, Beach HEad, Daley Thompson’s Decathlon and Jet Set Willy. Each of them classic games in their own right. Only two of the games worked properly. Beach Head suffered from bad mastering which meant the Speccy rarely picked up the signal on the tape, and Sabre Wulf suffered some tape damage, though this was several years into owning it. One of my last Speccy memories involve actually fixing the tape and getting it to play only once.

Of course, it wasn’t long after owning the machine that Daddykins started getting interested in it too. He would often spend a night or so using it to type in program listings from magazines. He also knew friends with Spectrums, and lots of games, therefore our collection of C15s was started.

The permanent home was in the kitchen. It started off on a little white B+W TV, (you know the type if you were a child of the 80s), eventually, the TV was upgraded to a portable colour Saisho variant. This was where I spent many happy days during my childhood…

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Of course, my time with the spectrum was not all fun and games. At some point, during 1987 / 1988, I’d discovered the brilliant colour effects you could get if you pulled the joystick port out of the back while the system was on. I wanted to show this to one of my friends at the time, William. He came over, and I said “Watch this!”.. On went the system, out went the joystick port, flash went the funky colours. He seemed stunningly unimpressed, yet I enjoyed the light show. I’d do what I did many times, and unplug the Speccy to reset it. I did this, and…. garbage. Instead of getting the familiar RAM test (black bars, red lines), all I got was yellow garbage on the screen… another power cycle, another set of garbage. I could have cried. In fact I probably did. I was good at crying back then, as Chad often points out on here.

What was I going to do without my beloved computer? Thankfully, Chad’s parents step in and offer my parents their old Commodore 16 while my Speccy was away for repair. Around the same time, Chad also received a Spectrum 128K. It was the superior version of the 48K I had, but with an extra toast rack on the side. I’ve always wanted to own one of those particular machines, but as they were as rare as rocking horse shite (his was the only one I ever saw “in the flesh” for want of a better phrase) I suppose I never will. This meant that the rest of my childhood were spent playing Soccer Boss with his brother, Scott, and receiving dodgy C90s filled with the latest games which I’d never be able to afford, and being mocked by Chad because the cassette tapes I used stunk of cheese. No, they really did.

So, it’s 2012, 30 years ago today, people would have been queuing up to get their hands on Mr. Sinclair’s rubbery offerings. 30 years on, I’m proud to still be a Speccy owner, and although I don’t use my Spectrum anymore, I still have it, and will never part with it. Unfortunately, too many Spectrums will have met the same fate as this one…

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Here’s to you, Clive Sinclair, and of course Daddykins, who also shares his birthday with the machine. Happy birthday Dad!

2010… what a pile of… boring (Part 2)

Okay, it’s mid-way through December when I’m typing this. We’ve had snow, but it’s all-but melted now,. I’m munching on Roast Beef Monster Munch (85g packets from Home Bargains – 39p each. Awesome), and I’m almost ready to go to bed. You may remember in the previous post, it was… erm, June.

JULY 2010

Mercuryvapour Towers was greeted by another new visitor, a rather frosty one at that. Our old chest freezer, which we’d had for roughly 20 years, was showing signs of giving up the ghost. It leaked terribly, and always had a coating of mould on it, thanks to the seals perishing, and the hinges snapping. They were held on by a small piece of trouser belt.

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This month, for some reason, saw me doing day shifts, meaning I actually got to see some daylight. Unfortunately, the daylight also brought with it stupidly heavy rain, with rain showers almost as heavy as the August 2003 deluge. I can’t remember the exact date, but it was a Tuesday, as Daddykins bought us both a Blossom Garden Special. I also had a loan of ATIF’s zoom lens for a few days. Shiny.

AUGUST 2010

A month of fun and frolics, and by that, I mean that the Tall Ships visited Hartlepool. It was a busy month for me when it comes to photos, with the tall ships, a night-time visit to Hart with ATIF, and the last ever performance of Accidents By Design, at the Seaton Carew Cricket Club.

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We also deadified another mouse.

Not much else happened.

SEPTEMBER 2010

New stuff dominated September. And sunflowers. After finally giving up on my ancient phone, I went out and got myself a HTC Desire. It is still a shiny piece of kit. I also talked extensively about my purchases on Steam. It seems strange, but I started getting into gaming in a big way. Sucky weather and pure laziness meant that very little happened in this month. even the photo archive dried up after the well-documented sunflower walks.

Mercuryvapour Towers received a new heating system late-on in the month, and although we were without hot water for a day and a bit, it was a small price to pay for the warmth that we’d experience during the coming months…

OCTOBER 2010

Unfortunately, Employment Palace took quite a hold on me in this month, so I didn’t really accomplish anything. I missed a bus, that’s about it. There was the trip to Newcastle with ATIF, where I managed to take some 300 photos.

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… not all of them great.

NOVEMBER 2010

Something happened in this month, which normally doesn’t happen. It snowed, and plenty of it too. In fact, it would appear that every photo I’ve taken since then has resulted in a “snow” tag being added to it. Some other stuff did happen, I started 15 days off work, interupted by a night with the people from work for a few hours of bowling… I won’t bother linking to an individual photo, instead the flickr set is, erm.. there.

DECEMBER 2010

Special! Advent Calander's

I’m sat here, flipping my way wearily though a spindle of CDRs, for no reason other than I don’t know where to start with this particular month. It just passed me by. I had a lot of time off work, thanks to leftover holidays (and my first full day of sickness since 2008, bloody chest), but thanks to the snow which dominated the month, saw me hardly leaving the house. I’m too old to enjoy the snow now!

Though, saying that, I’m not tired of taking pictures of it – each time the sky clouded over, I was rushing around with the camera, taking as many shots as I could. One of them even ended up in the Dec 30th edition of the Hartlepool Mail. Cor, I quite clearly rule!

So, erm. That’s it, except for the bits I’ve missed out. 2010 in a nutshell. I can assure you it’s not really been as dull as I’ve made out on here…. actually, that’s a lie, it really, really has.

2011 hopefully will be different, I’m going to try and do stuff worth blogging about more often. which means I’ll be wasting more time sat in front of the PC, which, in itself is counter-productive to doing stuff worth blogging about… ah, it’s a vicious circle.

Does anyone know this song?

I don’t do this often, but I have another “unknown” song I’d like someone to name. This one’s different as I have the ENTIRE song, but have no idea what it’s called, or who it’s by.

Unknown song

I really don’t know much about this song, though I did actually buy it, or at least the magazine it was given away on. It came part of a free tape on the front of a music magazine from around 1989, possibly 1990. I can tell you I bought it from King Oswy shops, the original tape was black, and came in a slipcase. It may have featured “Inner City Mama” by Nenah Cherry on the tape too.

Not that it helps much.

Unfortunately, the original tape came from a manufacturer who made tapes that didn’t agree with my tape deck, and it probably got chewed up and binned. I certainly don’t have it anymore.

With the borrowment of Andrew’s cassette deck, I’ve been able to source one of my old C90s which had a copy of this song on it. Unfortunately, it was copied in high-speed mode, meaning the above track sounds tinny as hell. Just for old times sake, I’d like to know who it is and who by. Don’t bother googling the “lyrics”. “Blip Blipiddy Blop Bleep” doesn’t bring up any usefull results.

Feel free to comment / email. If it sounds familar, that’s great, but unless you’ve got a *really* good idea of who it is, then don’t! Also ,comments about my questionable taste in music, then, you know that already.

All this talk about bikes…

Ahh, this takes me back. It’s funny that Chad (aka Randy Lahey in the recent comments) mentioned my very first bike, which was amusingly titled the Bangermobile. Therefore, I shall reminisce a little about said bike.

Actually, if you want to split hairs, The Bangermobile was NOT my first bike, though it was the first one I actually used. Many years ago, my parents bought me a white BMX bike (not the one I mentioned in the previous post) out of the paper. The only problem is, it was huge, and I was tiny. Therefore, I never, ever rode it. It just gathered dust and cobwebs in the washhouse for about 2 years. I hoped I’d grow into it, but I was about 6 at the time, and I’d need to have waited until I was 14 before I’d have been able to get on it without someone’s assistance.

I was frustrated, I knew I had a bike. I wish I was big enough to have taken it out. Eventually, I got bored of waiting, and lost interest. I was about 8 at the time. Suddenly, unknown to me the bike disappeared entirely. The story, as far as I know it, is that my Uncle Jimmy took it to the bike shop up King Oswy, and swapped it for a bike which was more my size. The result was a plain purple coloured pushbike with racing handles on it, shown below…

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(Rescanned the image in 2016 to make it less blurry)

Over time, I found the racing handles a little hard to use, therefore they were replaced with standard handlebars which looked like they may have came from one of those little trolleys old people pull behind them. I didn’t mind. The bangermobile was mine, and no matter how much the other kids in the photo mocked me, I didn’t care, I could finally join in with their races, etc. That is, as long as they didn’t go beyond the end of the square. For the record, Chad is the lad at the back with his thumbs in the air.

I loved that bike. I could finally join in when everyone else got their bikes, building ramps in the square and jumping over certain objects, though I seem to remember falling off more times than enough.

I have no idea what stopped me from using the Bangermobile, possibly a puncture, possibly the fact you used to be able to turn the handlebars without the wheels turning, possibly a horrific fall which I’ve subconciously blocked from my mind and now cannot remember.

Either way, if bikes were dragons, the Bangermobile would be called Puff. Purple things and rusted rings made way for other toys. The bangermobile slowly slunk into its cave, located behind my dad’s shed. Well, it wasn’t a cave, I just said that so it fitted in with the song. In fact, it was (and still is) a completely useless piece of the back garden, which has always been covered in weeds.

Some time later (at least a couple of years), the Bangermobile was discovered by me and whatever friends I was with at the time. We decided it would be great to see it back from the dead, and attempted to repair it. Unfortunately, these attempts proved to be fruitless, when after repairing the tyres about 5 times, getting them pumped up at the Shell garage, only for the air to escape 5 seconds later, it was decided that the life of the Bangermobile was at an end. I’m not sure what happened to it after that. I was too old to care. We probably smashed it up.

It’s not all bad news. Remember those handlebars I didn’t like? The ones in the above picture? Well, they’re still with us. They now act as a handrail in our (mainly disused for 10 years) downstairs toilet…

I went out on my new bike again, just for something to do while the sun was shining. Imagine my delight when the front reflector fell off and went hurtling down the road to the side of me. I’m going to replace them with lights at some point anyway, so that’s not a problem, but why did it have to make me look like a cock in the first place, having to stop and pick it up? Someone was walking past at the time, I bet she had a good giggle. Sob.