Happy days: remembering the ZX80 and ZX81

Readers recall their experiences of 20 years ago with the ZX80 and ZX81

Readers recall their experiences of 20 years ago with the ZX80 and ZX81

David Bowen

I remember owning a ZX81 and buying some of the related computer magazines. One magazine had a piece of code that it said was a game. I carefully typed in the code (hex codes? I know it wasn't normal basic) that were written in the magazine. About half an hour later I bravely clicked the button only to see a message flash across the screen '"April fool", it then deleted the program so I couldn't even see the message again unless I retyped everything - which I think I did, but only one more time.

Gareth Avery

The ZX80 came out in 1980 with the ability to either display or accept data from the keyboard - not both. Typing resulted in the display blanking for each key press and gradually shrank the display as it shared memory. But it was exciting, ground-breaking stuff. We wrote a huge program where a car made up of ASCII characters drove across the screen and then exploded in a shower of # & *. Computing had arrived in our house even if it lost everything because it overheated.

Robert Osborn

I owned a 1Kbyte ZX81 and managed to program a Defender-style game on it.

Unfortunately, I had to get the aliens to follow a Sin or Cos wave across the screen in order to save memory in the program code. This made the Aliens absurdly easy to destroy. But what the hell, it kept me amused.

I immediately sold my pushbike and ZX81 in order to trade up to the Spectrum when it came out. I got the first ZX80 Compiler that came out for it and spent a gorgeous summer holiday locked up indoors coding up a Pacman game that was completely accurate up until level three (which was as far as I could get in the local arcade).

I followed a strict back-up routine and kept incremental back-ups religiously - on one tape. Needless to say I came back home one day towards the end of the summer all ready to put the finishing touches to the game, when my sister proudly informed me that she had recorded the afternoon's radio onto tape. No prizes for guessing which one!

I couldn't face rekeying it all and returned to school as rich as I had left it. I am convinced to this day that my Ferrari is sitting somewhere on that tape.

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