A special day for a very special computer!

Talk about non-Acorn classic computers/hardware/software here (including retro consoles)
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topcat96
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A special day for a very special computer!

Post by topcat96 » Tue Mar 06, 2018 1:38 pm

10 PRINT "ZX81 at 37 ";
20 GOTO 10

Happy birthday to my first ever computer ... the Sinclair ZX81 =D> =D> =D>

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Last edited by topcat96 on Tue Mar 06, 2018 7:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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vanpeebles
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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by vanpeebles » Tue Mar 06, 2018 3:27 pm

The design still looks great now. Awesome little machine.

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by RobC » Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:07 pm

That's definitely worth a game of 3D Monster Maze on the Beeb...

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by danielj » Tue Mar 06, 2018 9:24 pm

I have a very soft spot for my little doorstop...

d.

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by richardtoohey » Wed Mar 07, 2018 8:48 am

topcat96 wrote:my first ever computer
Mine, too. :D

I remember Dad ordering it, and waiting, and waiting, and then (IIRC, it was a long time ago!) it being delayed, and having to wait some more.

Pressing hard on the little membrane keys to make something appear on the slightly swirly TV screen.

And the wobbly 16K RAM pack ... can't remember it we got that with it or soon after. Both the ZX81 and RAM in a shoe box around here ... somewhere ... don't think worth enough for me to retire on ... [-o< :roll: :wink:

And then from that to a BBC B ... :D

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by Pablos544 » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:44 am

richardtoohey wrote:..And then from that to a BBC B ... :D
LOL :D

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by Commie_User » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:27 pm

I remember trying a ZX81 when I was younger and being very underwhelmed. It may have come from a boot sale but I can't remember the circ's. It was certainly many years after its heyday. It was hard to the touch, it did nothing (as I thought) and I wondered what a pity it wasn't at least a Spectrum.

Even though I've always liked old stuff and appreciated getting something from something, this was also before it became important historically.

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by Commie_User » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:30 pm

topcat96 wrote: Happy birthday to my first ever computer ... the Sinclair ZX81
What projects did you do on it? I gather the ZX was quite BBC-ish in regards making some contraption, plugging that in the back and writing a program to make it interact.

Did anyone else do anything 'real' on it?

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by jonb » Wed Mar 07, 2018 4:03 pm

I had an 8 bit parallel I/O board plugged into the back of my self built ZX81 that I tried to generate polyphonic tones on, using one data line and a speaker. The code was hand assembled and had a nested loop to trigger a 1->0->1 state change back and forth on the line the speaker was wired to. This followed a successful test of a single tone generation, but crashed and I lost it all so I gave up.

Not a serious application, though. Mickey Mouse at best. If only I'd known more, I might have done something more interesting with it. As it was, the ZX81 was used for that and one other program written in BASIC that demonstrated to me how limited it was with 1k of RAM. That demonstration occurred the night I built the thing, so I didn't really get much out of it and ended up selling it as soon as I could.

That said, I have one (with a 16k RAM pack) in my collection, for auld lang syne.

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by Coeus » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:56 pm

Commie_User wrote:I remember trying a ZX81 when I was younger and being very underwhelmed. It may have come from a boot sale but I can't remember the circ's. It was certainly many years after its heyday. It was hard to the touch, it did nothing (as I thought) and I wondered what a pity it wasn't at least a Spectrum.
I think you have to remember that, when it was released, the closest most people came to a computer was when they received their payslip, bank statement or telephone bill which had been printed by a mainframe. When I first saw a microcomputer, the ZX81's pre-decessor, the ZX80, it was the only computer in a school of 1,500 pupils and was probably a personal initiative by the maths teacher concerned. If you were learning programming, you wrote your programs on coding sheets which were then typed onto punched cards and run on the minicomputer at the local technical college. The shool timetable was worked out by a program running on the county council treasurer's department mainframe.

But this was the beginning of the revolution. The following year the maths teacher had upgraded to an Atom and the school had an RM 380Z. The ZX81 was remarkable because it was, as far as I know, the first fully assembled computer that wasc cheap enough for ordinary people to buy and, importantly, cheap enough that parents could buy one for their children accepting the risk that the children may not take to it which was not the case of later, more expensive machines. Yes, it was limited but you could program it. It was the start of a journey.

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by Coeus » Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:58 pm

Coeus wrote:
Commie_User wrote:I remember trying a ZX81 when I was younger and being very underwhelmed. It may have come from a boot sale but I can't remember the circ's. It was certainly many years after its heyday. It was hard to the touch, it did nothing (as I thought) and I wondered what a pity it wasn't at least a Spectrum.
I think you have to remember that, when it was released, the closest most people came to a computer was when they received their payslip, bank statement or telephone bill which had been printed by a mainframe. When I first saw a microcomputer, the ZX81's pre-decessor, the ZX80, it was the only computer in a school of 1,500 pupils and was probably a personal initiative by the maths teacher concerned. If you were learning programming, you wrote your programs on coding sheets which were then typed onto punched cards and run on the minicomputer at the local technical college. The shool timetable was worked out by a program running on the county council treasurer's department mainframe.

But this was the beginning of the revolution. The following year the maths teacher had upgraded to an Atom and the school had an RM 380Z. The ZX81 was remarkable because it was, as far as I know, the first fully assembled computer that wasc cheap enough for ordinary people to buy and, importantly, cheap enough that parents could buy one for their children accepting the risk that the children may not take to it which was not the case with later, more expensive machines. Yes, it was limited but you could program it. It was the start of a journey.

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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by sweh » Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:46 am

Coeus wrote:I think you have to remember that, when it was released, the closest most people came to a computer was when they received their payslip, bank statement or telephone bill which had been printed by a mainframe. When I first saw a microcomputer, the ZX81's pre-decessor, the ZX80, it was the only computer in a school of 1,500 pupils and was probably a personal initiative by the maths teacher concerned.
A fair number of schools of the time had CBM PET machines or RML 380z systems.

Heh, in 1981 my school's "computer club" only had around 30 people, and very few of them turned up at lunchtime, so I was pretty much guaranteed a PET to play on every schoolday. (By 1984 there was a booking form).

What made the Sinclair stuff special was that it was so cheap, so people could afford it in their homes.
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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by Kazzie » Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:41 am

Commie_User wrote:I remember trying a ZX81 when I was younger and being very underwhelmed. It may have come from a boot sale but I can't remember the circ's. It was certainly many years after its heyday. It was hard to the touch, it did nothing (as I thought) and I wondered what a pity it wasn't at least a Spectrum.

Even though I've always liked old stuff and appreciated getting something from something, this was also before it became important historically.
I first encountered a ZX81 in 2002: it was my high school's 50th anniversary celebrations, and a teacher introduced me to what he described as the school's first computer. It belonged to the science department, which was the reason it it hadn't been thrown out years ago. (The school had an extensive Econet involving numerous Archimedes,and presumably Beebs before that, but that network was ripped out the summer before I started there. The ZX81, languishing in a distant store room, escaped notice.)

For the forthcoming anniversary open night, I wrote a small program in BASIC based on the equations of motion: the user was prompted for a force to apply to a projectile, and an angle of elevation. It then plotted a parabola representing the projectile's course, and printed out some statistics such as apogee and distance travelled. I hit the 1KB memory ceiling quickly, and had to tweak my code a bit to get it to fit. I'm sure I could do a tidier job of it today (I'd barely dabbled in assembly code at the time), but I was underwhelmed at the need for a wobbly RAM expansion pack to write a more substantial program (as well as being underwhelmed at the keyboard, of course).
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Re: A special day for a very special computer!

Post by Commie_User » Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:01 pm

As Coeus says, it was the first way to cheaply dip your feet in the water properly. I'm not surprised kids would have found it a bit hit and miss, especially with copycat Atari-esque consoles like the Teleng Colourstars for just £35. (That's about £155 now.) But for getting to grips with your first code for some custom numbercrunching or whatever, I can easily imagine how genuinely excited people would have been.

And within a year, you could do all that and way way more with the Spectrum. The pace of development was fast even then. I'd be interested to learn how many parents were able to rush a ZX81 back to Boots to swap for a Spectrum before the return period ran out.

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