As a twelve year old growing in the early eigthies, life was pretty good. I was in my last year at “middle school”, looking forward to the adventures that would await me at “big school” in a few months time. Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder had just made it to number one with that dreadful ditty “Ebony and Ivory”, a song that the music business would rid the world of racism overnight, we were gearing ourselves up for being part of “Ron’s 22” in the forthcoming World Cup in Spain and Maggie was single handedly winning the Falklands War.
But on St George’s Day the world for me changed forever. A man called Clive Sinclair launched the ZX Spectrum, the home computer that would change the habits of teenage boys in their bedrooms forever. This was the first colour home computer (hence the name Spectrum) and was initially sold as as either a 16kB or 48kB version. To put that into context, today a standard 100 word Outlook email is 16kB.
The British public fell in love with the rubbery keyboard, the unreliable tape loading mechanism and it’s relatively cheap price tag of £125 (around £344 today so it was the iPad of its day). Software titles soon filled our high streets, including classics such as Manic Miner (and it’s smash hit follow up Jet Set Willy), Football Manager (credited with inspiring the likes of Championship Manager today), 3D Deathchase and Knight Lore.
If we think software piracy is an issue today, think how easy it was to make illegal copies back then. Most stereos were sold with double tape decks and so new titles were exchanged at lunchtime for the price of a Mars Bar.
The ZX Spectrum range stayed with us for well over a decade. Sir Alan Sugar picked up the pieces of the original Sinclair business in 1986 when its Amstrad company bought the name and the production process.
But for today, let’s stand up and applaud the genius of Clive Sinclair and how he gave us teenage boys something else to do in our bedrooms at night.