Celebrating The Greatest Computer Ever Made

The Sinclair Spectrum is 25 years old today.

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum

Just look at its rubber keys. Oooh. Thanks to Sir Clive Sinclair, Britain was spared a 1980s of the drudgery of the C64 (and gave schoolchildren all over the country an extra reason to fight on the playground). A marvel of British design that used insane memory tricks so it could use defective chips (Sir Clive was always one for a bargain), the Spectrum inspired a whole generation of British computer programmers, including myself (even if I only got as far as BASIC). While Sinclair Research only managed to make it to 1986 after a dalliance with electric cars, the Spectrum managed to continue commercial production until the early 1990s.

Bizarrely, the Spectrum also made it behind the Iron Curtain. The Russians stole the designs for the machine and produced their own versions of the machine, practically turning it into the Soviet Union’s equivalent of the IBM PC. They produced disk drives, extended the memory and other weird and wonderful extensions to drag out the life of the humble Speccy.

I got my first Spectrum when I was four; a 48K model that was converted into a Spectrum+ half-way into its life. It met a tragic end after an all-day session of Bruce Lee. The next morning, I turned the machine on, only to be greeted by smoke rising from the keyboard. It was not a good day. About a year later, though, I got a Spectrum 128K, the final Sinclair-produced model, which I still have in its box somewhere in my room. Somewhere.

The Spectrum is no longer available, but with the magic of emulation, anybody can share in the wonder of 48K; yes, even filthy C64 owners. Just head over to World of Spectrum, grab an emulator for your system (if you have the means, I heartily recommend SpeccyDS for your DS). WOS also has a very impressive selection of games to download, though sadly not complete, as some companies annoyingly refuse to allow distribution of their old games. I would suggest that you get hold of 3D Deathchase, Head Over Heels, Ant Attack, Dan Dare, Rainbow Islands, R-Type, and the peerless Chaos.

Ahh, jumpers for goalposts, C90 tapes exchanged by the wall…those were the days!

currently playing: The Rosebuds – Get Up Get Out

Last Day of April

Well, my visit to Duke was then followed by a very pleasant evening spent with Stacie and Srav at Chilis, followed by a reasonably relaxing night at Fuse…lots of dumplings, sweet potato fries, and saying good-bye to friends. Until next time, obviously!

More pictures are up on Flickr, and I’m beginning to sort some ideas out for Snappish Thoughts Version 2. Exciting, isn’t it?

To come: the Wii, the Bis post, concert poster design, and oh, yes. Work. Boo.

currently playing: The Rosebuds – Get Up Get Out

At Duke

You see, UNC’s campus is somewhat welcoming, accessible, and open.

Duke, however, presents such an air of class and wealth that you expect Sarah Michelle Gellar to walk by snorting coke from a crucifix. And then making out with Selma Blair. Obviously.

currently playing: Johnny Boy - 15 Minutes

It Can't Be Porn, It's Islamic!

Oh, Franklin Street, how we love you.

currently playing:

About Last Night (and the night before)

Some things:

  • Don’t wear flip-flops to Hell. The black sludge that ends up on your feet is very disconcerting
  • Some people have a very keen eye
  • The temperature drops considerably during a thunderstorm
  • I can never, never show my face in VisArt ever again

Firstly, I will say again that you should try and seek out Helvetica if it’s showing anywhere near you in the next few months, or try to get hold of the DVD later in the year. It proves that typographers are, in the main, somewhat crazy. I suppose if you stared at letterforms all day long, you’d go a bit nuts too.

I can also recommend Durham’s Electric Blender for your thrift store clothing needs. Lalalala. Not obsessed.

My birthday started out a little quiet, as my phone somehow managed to not keep Laura’s message when she left one the night before, but it was a fun afternoon of tracking down marzipan and other sundry items, for I remade the chocolate cornflake mushrooms (this time using milk chocolate so people would actually eat them). Still, though, I can never get it quite right; because I was using a small rectangular bowl to mix the cornflakes and chocolate together, I didn’t quite get enough cornflakes in. Which resulted in marzipan-covered chocolate blocks. Not that people complained…apart from saying that they would get diabetes…

We also had an egg scavenger/trail hunt! This was organised by Naomi, who came dressed for the occasion in a trenchcoat and plastic coat. It was a touch windy outside, and perhaps we moaned a bit too much, as we did have a lot of fun. But I can never go into VisArt again.

And Ninja v. Robots cake from Laura, who also brought balloons and a cuddly squirrel that even right now is plotting to garrotte me when I least expect it. Presents abounded, wonderful things from Laura, Stacie, and Christa. Some of which will be making short appearances here soon, others will be used by Bonnie and me with relish!

I was mocked once again for using a knife. Silly Americans. Hehehe.

A big crowd: Mandy, Wyatt, Eric, Danny, Nikki, Heather, and Margee also present alongisde the others. Oh, and Collin! Whoops! His trumpet playing and the surge of patriotism will not be forgotten soon (when asked if I knew the words to ‘God Save The Queen’, I just laughed and pointed to Irish heritage ;)). A wonderful night.

Coming into the last few days. In fact, the first goodbye tonight. It all seems to disappear so fast, but there’s little we can do about it…

currently playing: Low – In Silence

Things I Learnt Today (Brief Version)

One: Helvetica was responsible for all the American wars of the past forty years.

Two: Typographers are an amusing bunch.

Three: You can get away with wearing a full Doctor Who outfit in the middle of North Carolina, but you will get funny looks and compliments from passers-by…

Four: We’re going to Hell!

More tomorrow…providing that we get back in time for tomorrow to have a morning. Heh.

currently playing: The National – Fake Empire

Thought For The Day

I know carrots and peas exist here. And yet, I don’t think I’ve seen any in restaurants. Lots of lettuce though. And peppers. Surely that counts as healthy eating? Tofu?

And a big hurrah to Laura for getting a full-time position! And only slightly mocking my attempts to pronounce a Spanish word!

Also: VG+ took my order for an American Wii today. Should be arriving home within two weeks. So, I’ll be picking up Wii Play and Super Paper Mario before I leave here, I think!

currently playing: Low – Hatchet

Is That Dawn?

Getting used to 4am bedtimes is a touch jarring. Oh, what a cross I bear. Hah. So, if today is Wednesday, what have I been up to? Well, Monday was my traditional Mall Day, wherein I tried (and failed) to resist the pressures of consumerism and the dearth of 34x30 trousers. Southpoint gets bigger and bigger all the time; since Christmas, a Best Buy appears to have appeared, almost from nowhere, making New Hope Commons look even more threadbare in comparison.

Yesterday started out as a normal walking day, going back and forth to Carrboro a fair few times, before meeting up with Christa, fresh from New York (and the proud new owner of a pirate ship. Arr!). I had dinner with her and Eric, which included my first taste of sake…and the earliest I’ve felt drunk in a long time (my family can write their own jokes here). Then, a strawberry milkshake at The Spotted Dog, a prelude for adventures with Sara, Wyatt, Collin, and Emily. It turns out that Wyatt is something of a master of air hockey, but, considering it was only my third game, I wasn’t too bad (i.e. I didn’t get completely slaughtered). Other things learnt from the evening: there is a tremendous dearth of decent available gay men online in the Triangle, and people will use Craigslist in the most creative ways to get back at others.

Hopefully, more soon. I have something of a response to the recent flurry of Bis reminiscences, provisionally entitled ‘The Other Side Speaks: A Confession (Or: How I Learnt To Stop Worrying And Become Teen-C)‘. I was going to write it today, but sleep got in the way, sadly. Soon, I hope!

Oh, also: pictures are up at Flickr, if you haven’t been seeing them. I need to take more…

currently playing: The National – Green Gloves


Are there going to be any teenage boys left in London by the time I get back?

currently playing: Morrissey — First of The Gang To Die

Modern Life is…well, quite good actually!

Kelley said to me yesterday “Isn’t a bit weird coming all the way over here and then going to a Britpop dance party?” And it is, I suppose, but it’s interesting to hear what gets played and what doesn’t in comparison to back home. Highlights of Saturday night’s Modern Life (at the Local 506, Chapel Hill/Carrboro fans) included a rare outing by Dubstar, Altered Images, and, for perhaps the first time I’ve heard it played straight for…well, years, Slight Return. I had to restrain myself from doing the Lard bits. Also: amusing for five people on the dancefloor to all turn into Bez as soon as Step On started playing.

(I may have been responsible for Lucky Soul’s first transatlantic club outing after they were played earlier in the evening. Do Ruffa Lane have a street team?)

Sadly, a wardrobe malfunction meant that fancy dress could not be worn, but I have rectified that today (buying a white shirt turned out to be a tougher task than it really needed to be), so it will get an outing sometime before I leave. Promise.

currently playing: Idlewild – In Competition For The Worst Time