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Blog: What It Did Get Me Today

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Today is (INCREDIBLY) the 30th Birthday of the ZX Spectrum and, rather wonderfully, my entire twitter feed is ALIGHT with people singing it's praises.

And so they should - as I've mentioned elsewhere the Spectrum had a MASSIVE effect on my entire generation. It's hard to believe now, but when I was a young teenager me and all my friends would spend huge chunks of our spare time CODING for FUN. We'd swap program listings between us, which we'd TYPE into the machine by HAND, and by doing so we learnt how to program a quirky version of BASIC.

Obviously we ALSO swapped tapes of GAMES between us - A LOT - but even that had unforseen Education Benefits. Playing games (A LOT) led you to understand how they were made, and therefore how programming was done too. Working out that the pieces of the AMULET in SABRE WULF appeared in one of four groups of locations, for instance, led to an understanding of ARRAYS, and wondering how they made the MAPS of Lords Of Midnight led to all manner of investigations into DATABASES.

And to think, all those times I told my Mum that playing on my computer was EDUCATIONAL, I was actually RIGHT!

Of course this BUBBLE didn't last, and new pre-programmed games machines came along which not only didn't REQUIRE coding knowledge, but didn't even ALLOW it. I was stunned when I did my computing MSc a decade ago to find that, though people of MY generation had an in-built understanding of how computers ACTUALLY WORKED, people younger than us had no idea AT ALL. We'd WHIZZ through Javascript like it was second nature, but to them it was a whole new THING.

As well as all that, of course, it had a MAJOR impact on my life when I went and wrote Hey Hey 16K, first in 1999 when we made it The World's First Ever Internet Single (all other contenders: SHUT UP) and then in 2004 when Mr Rob Manuel turned into into one of the first ever viral videos. We had over two million hits for his flash animation in the first FORTNIGHT of released - pretty incredible when you consider that there was no YouTube, and most people didn't even have the internet at home - and it's continued to be a MAJOR part of my gigging life ever since.

So, today, let us all SALUTE the mighty little machine that changed the lives of my generation and - if you want to get PRACTICAL about it - made this country a MAJOR PLAYER in the FUTURE, with a ready made nation of PROGRAMMERS who could take on THE WORLD. Thank you Sir Clive, thank you very much indeed!

posted 23/4/2012 by MJ Hibbett

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