Google has chosen to celebrate both St George’s Day and the 30th Anniversary of the Sinclair Spectrum with their Google Doodle today, Monday, April 23, 2012.
And it’s something that brings back a lot of memories for me. I can remember my first experience of playing on a 48 ZX Spectrum at a friend’s house, with the excitement of hearing the squeals of code loading from a C90 cassette tape deck attached by some rudimentary cables, and the joy of being able to control the onscreen action with the rubber keys.
It was followed by some incessant pestering of my parents and for the Christmas following my 5th birthday I unwrapped my very own home computer, which I remember came with Transversion – a grid-based space game blatantly ‘inspired’ by Pacman and Space Invaders.
Then came the delights of typing in the code copied by hand from Sinclair User and Your Sinclair magazines. The frustration when it didn’t work as I went back to 3 line programs to display a never ending stream of swearwords. And the fun of being given C90s full of copied games and trying to find the gap between the first and second game on the tap.
And although I wholeheartedly embraced piracy as an impoverished 5-year-old, there was the risk that in trading cassettes evidence of particularly bad music choices was revealed when some of the evidence remained.
In the years that followed came the 128K +2 Spectrum, the Amiga, the Gateway 486PC, and various work computers up to my modern day Samsung laptop. There’s barely any way I could have imagined that a computer or games console could ever produce the graphics now churned out by the Xbox 360 in my living room – that was beyond what Hollywood was filming until pretty recently.
But without the ‘interesting’ approach of Sir Clive Sinclair to computers, I might not have been interested in technology, the internet, or anything that has led to a fascinating life which has taken me around the world, let me work with some amazing companies, people and brands, and now means I can run a reasonably successful company with a number of clients and a growing number of employees and partners from a laptop on my dining room table.
It’s also why I’m so keen that the Raspberry Pi and projects like it are supported in given access to children to be able to be creators rather than just consumers.
It’s why I’m so interested in British companies producing innovative technology, and how that can give rise to entire industries – in this case, the Commodore 64 (spit), and Spectrum 48k gave rise to the bedroom games coders and early games companies, relatively few of which still survive in the era of Japanese and American consoles dominating video-games. It’s why we need to support existing British technology brands, particularly those which open up opportunities to the end user.
Long live the Spectrum, and if you had any doubt I’m still a fan, here’s a recent tribute on one of my online racing cars. Graphics have come a long, long way….
Checking out one of the TV adverts for the Spectrum at the time also makes me remember the formative influence of the first time I watched The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy after it was adapted for television.
It’s interesting to imagine which products from the last two or three years will be celebrated in 30 years time… Which would you suggest will make it?