For my next EIGHT BIT ADVENTURER column, for EIGHT BIT magazine issue 5, I’ve penned Begin Adventuring with a Sinclair Spectrum, which is an introductory feature for anyone thinking of taking up computer adventure gaming for the first time, or looking to relive fond memories of past quests for fortune and glory.

ZX Spectrum 128 'Toastrack' (Wikipedia)
ZX Spectrum 128 ‘Toastrack’ (Wikipedia)

If either of these applies to you, unless you are already committed to a particular home micro, there is a great deal to be said for beginning your journey through the exciting, fun and challenging world of text and graphic adventures with the very affordable, undeniably quirky, but justifiably famous Sinclair ZX Spectrum as your companion, especially as there are many different models of Spectrum you can buy second-hand – and most importantly, masses of Spectrum adventures are freely available!  It’s also a great focus for collecting, as second-hand hardware and software are easy to find.

Heroes of Karn loading screen (Interceptor Software)
Heroes of Karn loading screen (Interceptor Software)

A phenomenally popular eight bit British home computer of the 1980s, the much-beloved ZX Spectrum was created by Sinclair Research, headed by the legendary, if a little eccentric, Sir Clive Sinclair (aka ‘Uncle Clive’), and was later also manufactured by Sinclair’s rival, Alan Sugar’s Amstrad. Getting started in Spectrum adventuring is the theme of this particular article.

Amstrad ZX Spectrum +2 grey (Stuart Brady - Wikipedia)
Amstrad ZX Spectrum +2 grey (Stuart Brady – Wikipedia)

The ‘Speccy’, as it became fondly known to its millions of original users, had the advantage of being one of the cheapest colour home computers (hence the name) of its day, with a Z80 processor, a cheap storage system (audio cassette), and a useful amount of RAM memory for the time (from 16k-128k, but generally 48k). All that was required for a video display was an ordinary television set.

Such was the Spectrum’s popularity that it came to be sold everywhere in the UK, both by specialist computer shops and mainstream High Street retailers, and it created an industry which came to produce many thousands of software programs, particularly games, and whose influence is still felt today with our massive modern games industry standing on the shoulders of those past generations of developers.

The Balrog and The Cat (Zenobi Software)
The Balrog and The Cat (Zenobi Software)

Amongst those thousands of programs produced for the Spectrum were many hundreds of great adventure games, both classic text adventures, and text and graphics adventures, not to mention role-playing games. And most of those games are still easily available today, either as collectable originals or free online downloads.

There is even still a small, but growing, cottage industry of homebrew developers still making new games for the Spectrum, though you won’t find their products in W.H. Smiths anymore, sadly!

Twin Kingdom Valley loading screen (Bug Byte)
Twin Kingdom Valley loading screen (Bug Byte)

But whether you are a newcomer to adventure gaming, or an old hand, where should you start today if you fancy taking a Speccy on your quest? Do you dive in feet-first and buy an old computer, assuming you don’t already have a Spectrum up in your loft? Or try out software-based machine emulation on your Mac, PC or Linux machine?

And if you do decide to go for the full-on retro adventuring experience, which Sinclair Spectrum should you buy, what accessories might you need, where can you find games – and how do you begin? Well, if you’re a reader of Eight Bit magazine, you can begin with issue 5!

See: http://www.eightbitmagazine.com/ for magazine pre-order details.

Stuart Williams



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