It would be an understatement to say that Sir Clive Sinclair and his innovations were directly responsible for me getting into the I.T. industry. Though I started off at an early age playing with my godfather’s electronic typewriter and being allowed to type up telexes on the terminals at my father’s work, it wasn’t until my dad brought home (well, borrowed long-term from a neighbour) a ZX81.
Sure, it was basic. And I had to learn BASIC. The games took an age to load and were pretty limited. But then again, before it was brought home, I had it in my tiny mind that a home computer could give you answers to everything – how tall is the tallest mountain, for example. Well, we had to wait a good few decades before THAT feature came around.
But the ZX81 definitely sparked an interest in programming, and that eventually lead to a ZX Spectrum 48K. At some point, I did have Amstrad’s CPC464, but I can’t remember if that came before or after the 48k Spectrum. I’m thinking it was probably before. Most of my friends had a Spectrum so it was easier to trade games. But speaking of the CPC464, it triggered something in my mum to learn a bit of programming herself. She would occasionally jump on and start typing in computer programme listings. I did like the CPC464, but ultimately it was the ZX Spectrum that held out. And that included upgrading to the ZX Spectrum +2A – the model that was released after Sinclair’s company was sold to Amstrad after the dismal failure of the C5 and Spectrum QL (which was just too advanced and unique at the time – by all accounts it had a pretty spiffy set of specifications).
The biggest problem with the ZX Spectrum +2A is that it used the firmware (or ROM) from a ZX Spectrum +3 – the disc-based model. This lead to what I think was a few compatibility issues, because the bloody thing would constantly crash for no reason. The tapes were good, and adjusting the tape head alignment made little to no difference either. And I wasn’t the only one to notice this based on reader’s letters in computing magazines (we had no internet in those days – the youth of today, etc. etc.)
Regardless of the ZX Spectrum +2A’s problems, it lead me on the road to the bigger and better things. Dad brought home an Apple IIe that was being chucked out at work. I used that for my BTEC course – especially handy since the Apple IIe had a built-in 6502 assembly environment. Its modular design also got me into the basics of what would eventually be PC building – which was my first job out of university (having already owned an Amstrad PC3086, a Mitec PC clone (can’t remember the CPU) and an Everest 486DX PC). From there, the web hosting, ISP, film and TV visual effects industry, and now e-commerce.
I raise a glass to Sir Clive, while not all his ideas were profitable, his spark and inspiration live on.