Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, a fact that quite frankly blows my mind just a little.
We had a Spectrum, my brother and I, after months of attending the local Computer Club and watching the slow transition of those in the group from the modest but limited ZX81 through to models that were a little more ambitious in memory and performance - including the Speccy. Money was saved, cases were argued (including the old chestnut that it would improve our education) and, eventually, as a family we made the trip down to Dunedin to pick up the new addition, all 16 kilobytes, peripherals, manuals and polystyrene packaging of it. It was a big moment in my adolescent life. I was thirteen and this looked for all the world like the future in our spare room. We loved our ZX Spectrum, lavishing it with hours of our developing lives and crafting it a fuzzy blue workstation of its very own, with holes for its coaxial cables and a shelf for its cassette player. Within a year or so we made a further plunge and with the help of a school friend, upgraded our little beauty to a more impressive 48k.
Somewhere amidst travelling with Bilbo Baggins, collecting Chuckie's Eggs and Jet-Setting with Willy I grew up. I learned the shrewdness of brand recognition (Melbourne House games were often literary based - The Hobbit, Sherlock Holmes, earnest but very well put together, Ultimate games - Sabre Wulf, Atic Atac, were punchy, dynamic, imaginative and innovative) and brand loyalty (I spit on you, Amstrad! et cetera). I learned my limitations as a programmer and gamer. But I communicated wit other kids about our shared interest in the computer, I made friends, and by god I actually got more out of it than I put into it. That's a rare thing in life right there. In time the world moved on: my friends upgraded to C64s or Amigas, and our school BBC Micros became robust, cuboid early Apple Macs. Ten years on from our ZX Spectrum I was eventually writing university essays on a word processor, then using email, Telnet, and eventually the World Wide Web. Technology, as George Lucas would modestly put it, had caught up with me. But my first love, for ever and always, will be a slim, black box with rubber keys and a non-threatening 80s-sharp rainbow flash on the corner.