I clearly remember the first time I ever looked at a ZX Spectrum for the first time, because it was the first time I ever laid eyes on a computer. And it was the first time I ever laid eyes on something that played video games. In many ways, for me personally, it was love at first sight.
Yesterday, the ZX Spectrum turned 30 years old. Happy belated birthday!
I was already six years old. My uncle brought it over to my house in a duffel bag — he said he didn’t need it any more. He had upgraded. Inside the duffel bag was a box of cassette tapes, some of brand new games bought from shops, others blatant copies. My dad was watching the only colour TV we had in the house, so I had to use my gran’s old black and white TV.
Yes — unbelievably I’m old enough to have owned and used a black and white TV. My first experience of a video game, as a six-year-old, was in black and white.
When I went back home to Scotland last year, for my mum’s 50th birthday, I went through a pile of my old school books, written around that time, and even then it was obvious I was obsessed.
“Yesterday, I played a game,” it would say in scrabbled terrible handwriting. “It was called Daley Thompson’s Decathalon.”
“Yesterday, I played a game. It was called Horace Goes Skiing.”
Always next to it, a crude drawing of the game I was playing. Sometimes my dad would let me play on the colour TV, other times I had no idea what colour the game was since I was playing in black and white. So I would just make it up.
It’s weird, I know that almost no one in Australia shares these kinds of memories — the Spectrum was never popular here in Australia really — but I think everyone can understand the sentiment. The first moment you played a video game was an incredible moment for people my age, mostly because you are vaguely aware of a time when they didn’t exist. I think everyone has gone through that experience and can relate on some level.
Happy birthday ZX Spectrum!
The BBC has a really great interview with the brains behind the original ZX Spectrum, you can check it out here.