The first programming language I learnt was Sinclair Basic for the ZX Spectrum. I got my first ZX Spectrum for Christmas in 1982, (although I had to pay for half of it myself from savings!), so I was 14 years old. We bought the 16K version, because the sales guy in WH Smiths told us that no-one would ever need the full 48K version, however by my birthday in March I'd bought the memory upgrade to 48K! As the Spectrum was just the computer itself, you had to attach it to a TV screen and had to supply an audio tape player to load and save any programs.

I loved this machine and this new world of programming it created for me. Sure I went out and bought all the classic games like Manic Miner, Jet Pac etc, but I also liked the idea of buying the monthly Spectrum magazine, (I forget it's name), to get the code listings. You would laboriously retype these code listings in to your Spectrum, with it's weird multi function rubber keyboard and hope that the program would run! If you got any of the code wrong it just wouldn't run, so you would have to painstakingly run through it all to find the error! Of course there would be the odd occasion where they printed something wrong, and you wouldn't find out until a month later...

Of course we didn't have the Internet then, so you couldn't download code or talk to people in online forums! Learning to program was quite an arduous task then.

When you had finished creating your program, you would then have to save it to an audio tape. Yep - that's right the same type of tape that you would use to try and tape the charts on Sunday evening, (there's another story of old!). The problem is that this tape didn't always record it properly, and that would mean typing the whole thing back in again! The proper parlance I guess is to "save" your program, but really you were "recording" it. This tape was actually recording a high pitch squeal, which was the trademark of loading or saving a Spectrum program. To this day any geeky kid of the 80s would recognise that noise! Take a quick look at this YouTube video of a Spectrum loading a program.

 

As the Falklands War had recently happened, I wrote a little program where you had to land a little Harrier jump jet on the deck of a moving ship. I think it took me a few weeks to get right, but it did work quite well! Who know's what would have happened if I had tried to publish it... Ah well, missed opportunities. But all said and done the ZX Spectrum and Sinclair Basic laid the ground rules for my early programming knowledge, and I could never have known it would set me up for a career in IT. For starters the IT* industry just didn't exist in any known context. People who worked with computers in those days were highly educated scientific types...! My first work computer, an IBM XT hadn't even been created yet. Although it's precursor the IBM PC had been out since 1981, but I could never have dreamed that I would work with, never mind program one of these horrendously expensive beasts!

 

*What does IT mean? - seriously take a look at this :o)

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