More Science Week Stuff

Posted by Conor O'Neill on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Looks like the Science Week guys are hardcore! They’ve hired Edelman to help with PR. I like the idea they came up with. Basically Irish Bloggers have to answer some stuff about their favourite inventions as blog posts during the coming week and we might win a Wii.

Today’s question is “What was the favourite invention from your childhood”.

This is an easy one. The home computer, specifically the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.


An entire generation of software developers and electronic engineers exist because of this awesome machine and competitors like the BBC Micro, Commodore 64, Dragon 32, Oric 1, Atari 400/800, TI 99/a etc

Until the arrival of the Spectrum (and slightly earlier ones like the ZX81, ZX80, TRS-80), the most advanced thing most people had seen was electronic tennis on the telly. I still remember heading up on a school tour to Dublin, going into Tomorrow’s World in the Grafton Arcade and touching a ZX81 for the first time. My parents then bought me a 16K Spectrum for Christmas 1982 and my world changed forever.

Forget all the games we used play and copy using a precursor of bittorrent called tape-to-tape-recording. For me, the Spectrum experience was about programming and building add-on cards. I learned Basic, then Forth and then Z80 Assembler.

I had my 15 seconds of fame by having three games published in Sinclair magazines. I was half way through my masterpiece when college intervened. I did Electronics in UCD because of the Spectrum (I didn’t like the look of Cobol and RPG on the Comp Sci syllabus) and here I am now, still working in tech and still getting excited every day by the incredible things people build.

I enjoy seeing kids using gaming consoles and playing flash games on the web but I wonder will they ever have the excitement we did back in the 80’s when we saw the output of this:

10 FOR n=0 TO 255 20 PLOT n,88+80SIN(n/128PI) 30 NEXT n

Who knows, maybe the OLPC aka XO will do the same for Africa. I still have my doubts.

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