Memories of the ZX81

The ZX81 is 30 years old, and there are a number of retrospective articles, including this one from the BBC. Many of us have very fond memories of Sinclair Research’s early machines, and the ZX81 was my introduction to the world of computing. Back then, computers were strange, mysterious devices. Indeed, my brother and I saved up to buy a ZX81 without really knowing quite what it was. Having received the sleek, futuristic wedge-shaped black box, the only thing to do with it was learn to program – yes there was the “1K Games Tape” with some simple games, but once the novelty of these had begun to wane, it was time to see what use the machine could be put to. Adding a 16Kb RAM Pack made the machine more powerful (and allowed better games, when not writing programs, including the fabulous 3D Monster Maze).

The ZX81 taught me Sinclair BASIC and Z80 Assembler, and lessons in writing efficient code, that don’t seem to be anywhere near as relevant to the art of programming these days. Computers have become an everyday object that everyone has, but few are truly interested in. I miss the days when it was an enthusiasts hobby, and just having a computer implied both a greater interest and a deeper understanding.

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