Originally known as the ZX-82, it was named the ‘Spectrum’ so to show how it’s full of colour compared to its black-and-white predecessor, the ZX81. Add-ons came in the form of joystick connectors, and the Multiface, initially intended to save games, but since it saved the *entire* game, it could therefore be used to pirate one…
The Speccy was always my computer of choice, as I mentioned in my From Bedrooms to Billions review, and the original 16K and 48K machines were followed almost annually by the ZX Spectrum+, the ZX Spectrum 128K, the ZX Spectrum +2 and the ZX Spectrum +3… so you can’t blame Sony and Microsoft for incremental releases to their consoles such as the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X, since Clive Sinclair and co. got there first.
Some of the games which impressed me most at the time were karate cracker Way Of The Exploding Fist, motorbiker Wheelie and shoot-em-up Arcadia – a game which took 80 seconds to loads on the Spectrum, but EIGHTEEN MINUTES on the Commodore 64!
Then there was also Ultimate’s Underwurlde and Alien 8, Hewson Consultants’ Quazatron, Odin’s Nodes of Yesod, Bug Byte’s Manic Miner and Ocean’s bizarre – but captivating – Frankie Goes To Hollywood. As time went on, there were games with more fluid graphics like Tir Na Nog, but I didn’t really get it at the time.
Talking of lush visuals, I’ll never forget Oliver Frey‘s legendary CRASH magazine covers, as well as intricate map designs for incredible games like Knight Lore.
Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict – Trailer
There’s two hours of chat from games developers and designers, editors, illustrators and graphic artists. It’s fantastic to hear everyone’s recollections and it’s worth the price of admission alone for that, especially as these recollections are coming from the people whose opinions matter most, plus one of the great things about all these games is that you can play them on Emulators, today… and so onto the ‘piracy’ section of the film 😉
Examples include Jas Austin, who talks about pirating a game while asking a sales assistant in a shop like WH Smiths to load it up so you could test it. I didn’t quite get how he pirated it ‘from under their noses’ as he said, but I wish I knew how back then.
Also, Roger Kean, who was CRASH magazine’s first editor, tells us how his teachers sold pirated games, too. I wish mine had. Mr Bruce, who ran our BBC Model B-based computer room – and had the dodgiest wig to end all wigs – brought in the Doctor Who game, which I asked if I could borrow one weekend (so I could copy it). He said no. Bah! It’s not like it came with Elite‘s complex Lenslok system!
Of course, the irony is that I did have C90 tapes full of games, but more recently, I’ve spend £50 or so on Kickstarters such as the recent ZX Spectrum game Mire Mare (the then-unreleased Ultimate Play The Game title) and the forthcoming Hyper Sentinel, from Huey Games (aka Hewson), which will be released on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, and is a modern update on Uridium, a game for which the Spectrum version was written by a certain Dominic Robinson… yes, that’s my name, too. We’re not the same person, but when I brought in my Spectrum to play games for others to play on a school open day, with all the revenue going towards the school (well, some of it…), I was once asked if that was me who wrote it… I said “Yes!” (ahem)
Plus, when it comes to original titles, including those classic Ultimate originals, I’d kill for pristine original boxed copies of them now… well, not kill, but the prices on Ebay are a bit steep… you know what I mean.
In addition, when the Steam sale comes around from time to time… that’s why I’ve spent a load of money on over 150 games!
Oh, if only I had some disposable income back in the ’80s. What a waste of time school was!
Elsewhere in the film, The Oliver Twins (the Dizzy series) wrote their games on an Amstrad CPC and then transported the code onto the Spectrum to win. I remember Matthew Smith (Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy) told on From Bedrooms to Billions how he did similar, writing the code on a Tandy TRS80. Yes, there’s some crossover between the two films, not least the it features some of the same participants, but there’s more than enough in this for the asking price.
Also, graphic artist Mark R Jones‘s interview includes his first ever loading screen which he posted online (below).
— Mark R. Jones (@MarkRJones1970) June 19, 2015
Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict – A Short Taster of the Film
Other recollections include typing in programs from magazines, then running one without saving it to tape first, because I was too eager to play it… and it crashed, and I lost 2-3 hours of work(!)
Plus, their favourite magazines (Crash and Your Sinclair, for me, although C&VG was also good), the limitations of the hardware, including colour clash!, and a good question towards the end – of which game are they the most proud? You’ll have to watch it to hear their answers!
As for what’s to come, while neither the ZX Spectrum Vega, nor the forthcoming Vega+, weren’t my bag, as they dispense with the keyboard – necessary for a number of games, I’m all over the ZX Spectrum Next which is coming early next year. It’s a Kickstarer which I backed, based on what I’ve seen of the tests and game footage that the machine can be produced, I’m far more excited about future ‘Next’ releases than I am for the majority of the current gen console releases.
Each chapter loads with a ZX Spectrum loading screen, and those original loading screens, back in the day, were a major work of art. In fact, some were more impressive than the games they preceeded. However, I’d like a few more chapters, since the topics change inbetween chapters – so an additional chapters and ‘screens’ would be required for those. In addition, the chaptering doesn’t always fall where it should on my disc, but I expect future films will address this, and I understand that’s also happening regarding subtitles.
To that end, LOAD “FILM 2” is already in the works and the Kickstarter is online, with even more interviewees! I can’t wait to see that!
Overall, this is essential viewing not just for true Spectrum Addicts, but for anyone who wants to check out what all the fuss was about, and it’s just £12.99 for the signed DVD, and £19.99 for the signed Blu-ray! You’ll also receive links to extended interviews with Jas Austin, Steve Turner and Jim Bagley!
Also, if you’re attending Play Expo at Manchester this weekend, on Sunday they’ll play a section of the film, of around 30-40 minutes, mins, followed by a panel with many of those featured including Steve Turner, Jim Bagley, Jon Hare and Mark R Jones.
Overall: Essential viewing!
Memoirs of a Spectrum Addict is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as download, and you can buy them at: RemicMedia.com/SpeccyAddict
Spectrum Addict – LOAD “FILM 2” – Trailer
Running time: 123 minutes
Distributor: RAM Films
Released: Out now
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0
Format: 1.78:1 (16:9)
Director: Andy Remic
Producers: Andy Remic and Marie Vedat
Music: Rob Shedwick (Digital Front)
Artwork: Oliver Frey
Mark R Jones
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.