Electric Dreams – The 80’s

Again, I found this very interesting as it covered a period of my life that was fundamental to my career development, and that was the home computing boom.

It was cool seeing the young lad getting so excited about programming. I remember feeling the same way, and the thing with the 80’s home computers was that programming was so accessible and part of the fun of it all. I remember going into Boots or WH Smith and tapping away on their BBC Model B’s or Spectrum’s and writing something that would produce a pretty display. I remember knocking up a little program on their model B that the shop attendent saved to tape because he was so impressed, yet to me, it was just simple stuff that came out of my head. My brain was like a sponge and could pick things up really quickly. I didn’t even have a BBC B at home, I was a ZX Spectrum boy, but managed to program on the BBC without reading any manuals.

These days computers in the home (the ubiquitous PC) seem to be mainly used for games or internet. Programming is hard and not very accessible. But back in the 80’s you just turned the thing on and there was a prompt waiting for your input. Nowadays you have to wait 5 minutes while Windows loads, then load a development environment, write the code using incredibly complex techniques, compile it, debug it, recompile it etc. It’s all so laborious. I often think that my generation were incredibly lucky as we got to learn about computing and programming concepts at a fundamental level – all the subsequent generations have learnt to do is how to play a game. Very sad.

Someone should re-launch one of those old systems to re-ignite the enthusiasm that the young lad tonight proved is still there, just lurking below the surface. It needs to be cheap, simple and accessible. Oh wait, that’s the ZX Spectrum! lol

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3 Responses to Electric Dreams – The 80’s

  1. Graham says:

    I had the same thoughts, I learned to program with the computers I had at home and when I wasn\’t happy with the programming language I had to pull the thing apart to install a new ROM chip to get a more advanced version! I had to do the same thing to change the disk file system as well…all good fun…ah the good ol\’ days.

  2. Simon says:

    I\’ve just re-discovered programming. I\’m getting into programming PICs, the popular microcontroller chips made by MicroChip. It has built in peripheals & is as close to the old Z80 machine-code compiler as I can get. Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA\’s) are staggering in their capability too. I\’m using PICS to process data for my laser speed-trap detector project. I\’ve proved the theory, just need to refine it.Back to 80s home computers, do you remember 3D monster Maze for the ZX81; it ran in 1k of memory. The Windows mouse driver seems to need 40 times this amount!!!Simon

  3. Paul says:

    Ah yes, 3D Monster Maze I remember it well! But I thought it needed more than 1K though (i.e. 16K RAM pack)? The game I DO remember that ran in 1K was JK Greye\’s Breakout, absolutely incredible that it would all fit in 1K (just found a link here: http://www.zx81stuff.org.uk/zx81/generated/tapeinfo/b/Breakout(JKG).html)!

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