Memories - Learning with the ZX81
This article was contributed by 'J.Y.'
It was 1981, I was 11 and my family took delivery of a state of the art personal computer - the Sinclair ZX81.
My father ordered it many weeks before it was actually delivered. I seem to remember that there were quite a few complaints from people who had pre-ordered and paid, but had to wait so very long for it to arrive. I suppose the money from the pre-orders paid for the production? Clever !
The ZX81 arrived in a plain brown cardboard box with no identification on the outside, but we knew what it was!
A small slimline black plastic case and a membrane keyboard. It looked pretty good really, but technically it was flawed. For a start it only had 1K of memory, so many owners bought the optional 16K ram pack which although solved the memory problem it created a huge reliability problem. Often when you pressed a key on the membrane keypad it cause the machine to move slightly which wobbled the ram pack and crashed the machine! Aaargh !! Usually this happened on the last line of the 200 line program you were typing in from 'Your Computer' magazine. But then usually those programs didn't work anyway so did it really matter ???
This was such a big problem that I remember my dad making a 'jig' for it from a piece of 1/2" chipboard and some metal brackets that held the ZX81 down securely in place, not exactly the most attractive solution, but a practical one!
I loved this machine, it taught me a lot. I remember typing in programs from magazines and books and then having to debug them to get them to work. There were often typo's in the program listings, and it was down to you to get the programs to work. After succesfully debugging a couple of programs I gained the confidence to write my own one, and from that point point on I became a programmer ... and still am today !