1981… The heady times of Thatcherite Britain. Deep in the industrial north…
A vast private-equity fund is assembled for the sole purpose of the deployment of 21st Century technology.
Well okay, it was actually my brother and my sister and I that pooled our hard-won Christmas cash to spend 80 quid (about $160 for most of you) on the supercomputer known as the Sinclair ZX-81.
And we bought the thing upstairs in WH Smiths (think: Barnes and Nobles magazine section as a high street store).
A Z80-compatible processor running at 3.25 MHz and an unbelievable 1 KB of on-board RAM. And a black and white display running at 64×48 pixels! Was there nothing this machine could not accomplish!
Well actually, as I recall, the first two we bought failed to boot. But third time was a charm. We didn’t purchase the 16K RAM pack because (a) we had no idea what we would do with that much memory and (b) our fund was tapped out. In the interests of historical accuracy, (a) was a satisfactory excuse after (b) was discovered.
It also took a while to get the funky old TV to pick up the signal. But we got there in the end.
Some months later, when we had progressed to buying magazines and typing in programs (!) we found out that the tape in/out didn’t work. For those of you confused at this point, you backed up or loaded your programs on audio tape via the line in/out on a chunky old cassette player. Or at least, you did on any ZX-81 except ours.
And that marked the beginning of the end for the trusty ZX-81. The last time I saw it, the z-key of it’s membrane keyboard had become irreparably indented, so every boot produced a screen full of perfect Z’s, in all caps, of course.
So long ZX-81. Fare thee well.