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Sometimes they come back…

The Only Unforgivable Thing 

Ok to post three, and this is getting easier by the minute, one day I am a virgin, pure as the driven slush, now, I can’t stop.

Why did I change from working in the catering trade to IT? I have been asked this a lot of times in the last 12/13 years, and I always give the same reason, I was bored.

I left school knowing what I wanted to do, I wanted to be a chef, hey, the TV cooks made it look easy, as an aside, my only frame of reference at this point was Delia Smith on Saturday Superstore,(UK Saturday Morning TV Program), and the odd cookery slot on local TV programs, oh, and my mum.

I wanted to play football/rugby and cricket as well, but an injury to my knee early into my post schoolboy sporting career between leaving school and getting to college put paid to that.

So, I get to catering college my first day, get the list of books I need and the minimum knifes I need and realise that hey, this is going to be hard work, but that doesn’t matter, this is what I want to do.

Then, the fog clears, the rose tint glasses are lifted off my eyes and I see…… 12 hour days,(if I am lucky), weekend working, bank holidays, nice days, bad days, early mornings, late nights, all of these come into view, but you know what, I didn’t care, this is what I want to do.

More on this next time..


 And so to the point 


Consoles, we all have them, don’t we? It’s for the kids, aren’t they?

Well, actually…. I have one, it’s a second generation PS2, (for those not in the know, this is a PS2 Slim in Black).  I am sure that most people on here remember the fist computer they had, mine was a 16K Sinclair ZX81, (for those in the US, this was called something else, I think the Timex 1000, go figure), all my mates had the VIC 20, or the Tandy TRS80, but the ZX81 and it’s predecessor the 1K ZX80 where the dogs dangly bits in school.

Yeah ok, it had only a black and white screen, and yes, because it had an external tape deck to load and save games and utilities it was prone to crashing during loading, and yes if you moved it even 1/16 of an inch, it was liable to crash, (not too dissimilar to some of the PC’s here really),  but it was mine, I paid for it out of some of my paper round money that I saved up, and my parents funded the rest for my birthday.

You could by a whole raft of magazines from which you could manually type in, then correct the errors of loads of games and stuff, all in very slow ZX basic, an example of which

 10 REM temperature conversion
20 PRINT “deg F”, “deg C”
40 INPUT “Enter deg F”, F
50 PRINT F,(F-32)*5/9
60 GO TO 40

This is a simple Temp Conversation program for Fahrenheit temperatures to Centigrade, but hey, this was computing, then, when you felt confident, or stupid, then you started to create your own.

Trader, a massive game, of 5 tapes, you where a Trader in far off worlds, a graphic and word heavy game that took the ZX81 to it’s limits was the forerunner for modern classics such as Myst and Riven.

ZX Basic was clunky and very cumbersome, so  along came Machine Code, faster, cleaner and able to do more, Rocketman and Forty Niner were the first pure Machine code games on the old girl, and proved there was life in her yet, this and Mazogs kept it going well past the life of other machines.

I had one advantage at school, my English teacher was for the three years he taught me, and the three years after, the editor of one of the most popular magazines, ZX Computing, this started off as a magazine for the ZX80/81 but moved onto the Spectrum(48K), Spectrum +(128K and built in Tape drive), and Elite(256K, bigger/better keyboard, on board tape deck, no software).

He helped a few of us write games and also do reviews of new games for the mag, a couple of the other teachers got articles printed as well, which made it all the more fun, although we where never allowed to win any of the competitions.  

The school, because of this had one of each as well as a BBC model A + B, (Anyone remember these), which meant lots of time to indulge my passion.

Time passes

Having had the ZX81 for a few years, I sold it and bought a Speccy, and a Dragon 32, which I started to program, as well as beat the hell out of classics like Chukie Egg and Manic Miner, then, I had to go out to work and put it all away.

Then, along came the Sega Mega Drive for me, followed by the Sega Saturn, then my love affair with the Playstation started, I bought a third hand original brick like Playstation, and followed that with the PS2 about 18 months later.

And with the PS3, games are taking off in ways that where never imaginable all those years ago.

You will find lots of listings for old speccy games on ebay, it sells them by the bucket load, even the really bad ones, such as all the early Microsoft ones.

You think that some of the Film to Game converts are bad now, check out some of the early Bond efforts on the speccy, and lets not even go with ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, great film very awful game.

If you look through the internet you will find all sorts of lists and emulators for the old games, but you know what, I like old school, the original thrill of loading the games, if they loaded first time, then playing them till the machine crashed, then loading them again, just to do it all over again.

Thanks for listening, and in the words of the late great Buddy Holly, ‘It’s only a bit of snow, what’s the problem?’

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  • Jeff:

    Even when your blog is completely out off topic…I really like it -:)

    My first computer was a Macintosh Plus…Nearly 20 years ago…My first console was a Super Nes…

    Now…I own an LG T1 Laptop, a Mac PowerBook (Yeah…The very old one…Still working, however floppy get borked…), a Super Nes, a PSP, a PSP2, a Wii, a N64 and lot of emulators.

    We’re all Geeks, don’t we? -;)



  • My first computer was the Dragon 32, back in 1983. I have fond memories of playing a game called ‘The King’ which was a Donkey Kong clone. Until recent;y I still had the Dragon, its beige case had turned a deeper colour having been kept in its box under the house for all these years. It no longer worked so threw it away.

    Typing in those magazine programs was a right pain, and then having to figure out why it did not work because the magazine had misprinted a semicolon instead of a comma.

    Syntax error on line 40

    • Ah, this brings back memories of my own Dragon 32… and my aspirations to buy the BBC microcomputer, far more complex than that run-of-the-mill Commodore 64… ha ha, the Commie 64 guys were really only wannabees; sun-tanned soccer kids who did a bit of keyboard thumping on the side to try and impress the babes – real nerds went for more esotheric tools, right?


      • Hey, my first compie was a Com 64. And I used it to program real games with graphics made from the characters delivered. Who is really programming graphics today?
  • Hi Jeff, nice blog.

    Today’s brings back memories, I almost took a catering degree but I did a BSc in Optometry instead (I didn’t fancy the long hours either). Somehow or another I landed in the utility space and am now a CIS Business Analyst in the States, and about to embark on my first SAP implementation.
    I didn’t own one of the ZX81’s but I had a couple of friends with them, we used to play the Hobbit and a skiing game.
    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Sir Clive and his other amazing invention, Sinclair C5. 🙂