Yesterday’s YouTube excitement meant I was unable to bring you my scheduled blog entry, on the anniversary of the Speccy.
I was at the show where the Spectrum was launched: the Computer Fair at Earl’s Court. I went on the second day, which I think is 25 years ago yesterday, with my chum Mr Golds and my Dad. Young Mr Golds (note: not Jewish (family joke)) was at that time waiting for his BBC Micro to be delivered; he’d ordered it a few months before.
The Sinclair stand was, predictably, packed (here’s a review, including stand photo, from Sinclair User, June 82). A large panel showed the Spectrum in all its glory. TVs showed real, live software – I remember watching it draw the Sinclair logo and the Speccy’s rainbow flash. I don’t believe you could actually touch one, since I think they only had wooden dummy models at the launch.
A Negotiation took place, as I recall. The result was my Dad lending me the money to order a 16K Spectrum there and then. There was a wait, as many others were doing the same thing. (I did pay my Dad back.)
My order slip was number 1151 I think. I still have it somewhere.
I took home one (or two) of the fold-out advertising brochures, showing a full-size Spectrum on one side and full of clearly mocked-up screenshots and oodles of technical specs for me to memorise (JPEGs at the bottom of this page). I kept it in my school bag for months. Yes, I’ve still got at least one copy of that brochure (it fell out of every computer magazine for months).
Naturally my Spectrum wasn’t delivered within the specified 28 days. I think it arrived at the end of June. A plain brown cardboard box.
Already cynical, I didn’t believe it was going to actually work. But it did! I set it up in the living room, plugging it into the big family telly for a couple of hours, at least.
Ordered so early, it was what later came to be called an Issue 1 machine – one of the first 60,000 or so to be manufactured. Light grey keys, none of yer latecomer blue-grey nonsense. Serial number 0000036.
Spectrum number 36. It staggered me then, and staggers me even more now.
At some point I upgraded to 48K, which for an issue 1 machine meant opening up the case and plugging in a daughterboard. And of course I got the Interface 1 and Microdrive when they were eventually released. While I was waiting for those to appear (28 days? Bah!) I managed to break the Speccy by stupidly messing about with the edge connector. I got it fixed, but I don’t remember now whether they fixed it simply by replacing the entire motherboard, which happened quite a lot, or by actually fixing the problem. If they replaced the motherboard then I’m just left with Spectrum number 100,000+ in case number 36, which isn’t quite so exciting. I could fetch it out of storage and take a look, I guess. (Yes, it’s in its original box.)
Breaking the Speccy more or less coincided with moving house and starting at a new school. On my second day there, one of the teachers got wind of my predicament – by then I’d got the Interface 1 and Microdrive but had no working computer – and lent me one of the school’s for the weekend. Mr Machin, that was. Great bloke. (That’s not the teacher in the “backup software” business who I mentioned last year.)
And here I am, 25 years later, still going on about it all. I even edited the Wikipedia ZX Spectrum entry a few nights ago. Only to mention the light grey keys, though; I didn’t think they’d be interested in Mr Machin.