Back in the Summer of 1983, I was a child you would recognise from the wreck I’ve made of childhood.
I was an extrovert, I was never in the h
ouse, I was out with a massive group of friends any chance I could get.
Then December comes. As any other kid, I looked in my mum and dad’s wardrobe’s looking to see what presents I would be getting for Christmas. Nothing. A little weird, so I took a risk and looked in my oldest brother’s room and there in the back of his wardrobe was a Woolworth’s bag with black box, about a foot long, half a foot deep and wide. On the front was a black machine with what looked like blue keys.
What the fuck is that? Guess it’s for my middle brother or something, so I presumed my present hadn’t been bought yet.
Come Christmas Day, I wake up excitedly and rush downstairs with my brothers and we start unwrapping presents. I’m given this box and I unwrap it and it’s the same box I saw before.
Same question, what the fuck is it? Sinclair ZX Spectrum Personal Computer. What is a computer? What is a Spectrum?
So my brother’s set it up for me (they’ve obviously used it before!), plugged into a colour TV, cassette player and a few WH Smith’s tapes. The fuckers didn’t even bother buying games for it but pirated them from someone in their work, along with a list of games I could buy for £2.50 or something. A tradition I’ve carried on every since ha.
So they put in a tape and we wait, and wait and wait and then I’m presented with this screen. The first computer game I’ve played.
Let’s remember, this is 1983, and computers by modern standards were crap as you’d expect, so it’s hard to imagine the impact this made at the time, or as I prefer to see it now, what a complete fucking disaster this made of my life.
For the next six to nine months, I hammered that fucking rubber keyboard and Kempston joystick as I refused to let some fucking sprites on a screen beat me. Jetpac, Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy, Pssst and Football Manager was hammered morning, noon and night.
But then the boredom set in. No more “yay let’s play Atic Atac”, more “oh god, do I have to play these shitty games again”, but that god for the manual, which gave very, very basic instructions on how to “program” it and this was the point my future life went to shit as I typed in those long program listings from Sinclair User that never fucking worked first time around, that took longer to debug than to type in the first place, but at least it gave me a skill I have to this day of finding problems very quickly and fixing them.
I can still remember me and my brothers writing a game called Miners Strike, which was basically Space Invaders but instead you fired policeman at miners. Well it was topical at the time, and the hell of doing graphics as binary characters with the help of pen and paper.
So this is how my future life was decided. My mass of friends drifted away, going outside was rare, I was kicked out of the school football team and basically I turned into what kids of today are like: glued to their xbox’s and playstation’s, never going out, anti-social.
Over the next year or so, I learnt Z80 code but then moved to the Commodore 64, and it was the same story… I got bored of the games and started coding on it instead as it was much more entertaining to me.
Then I joined the 16 bit generation in July 1987, and what was left of my personality soon disappeared as I joined “the scene”, writing tech demos in what was bascially a European wide pissing contest to see who could do the best effect better than anyone else.
Ah it was fun.
Now it’s my job, I’m a developer for a living, sat in front of two monitors for eight hours a day, writing crappy code and fixing issues before I go home and spend another five hours at my home computer before going to bed and the whole sorry cycle starts over again.
Sounds a fucking blast doesn’t it.