In a few weeks the Queen will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee, but today thought turns to another important occasion. Nope, not St. Georges day, but the 30th anniversary of the ZX Spectrum!
Created by Sir Clive Sinclair, the ZX Spectrum was a fantastic home computer with distinctive colourful visuals and a wealth of affordable and original games. Becoming a common sight in households across the UK, it provided many British school kids with their first taster of home gaming, and contributed significantly to the home computer boom in the Eighties with the likes of Rare, Codemasters and Elite all cutting their teeth on the popular 8-bit micro.
It launched a number of classic gaming heroes too, including Miner Willy, Sabre Man, Jet Man and Monty Mole, and was responsible for introducing gamers to the delights of Ultimate’s Filmation. The system was eventually discontinued in 1992, but it managed to leave behind a rich legacy, despite the fact that it never had the same worldwide presence as the Commodore 64.
Even today the Spectrum is still impressing gamers, as Elite has been releasing a steady stream of classic games on iOS devices, with classics ranging from Jet Set Willy, to Barbarian. It’s also just released an excellent compilation comprising of 100 games to tie in with the Spectrum’s anniversary, meaning that some of the best games ever created for the humble 8-bit micro are now available to play on the move.
Inside the latest issue of RG, to celebrate the anniversary, we have a huge feature about the machine’s history and legacy. In it we speak to a number of developers and publishers with a strong connection with the machine, from Ocean Software’s Gary Bracey to Sinclair Research designer Rick Dickinson.
To give you a taster of what’s in store, Elite Systems founder Steve Wilcox (who also contributes to the article) kindly shares with us his thoughts and memories of the Spectrum.
Retro Gamer: What was your first memory of the Spectrum?
Steve Wilcox: My personal ‘first memory’ of the Spectrum is sadly lost in the mists of time. I do however still have vivid early memories of trundling up and down the M1, bringing van-loads of Spectrums (should that be Spectra) from Sinclair Researches distributor, (‘Prism’?) to the eager people of Walsall and its environs in 1983.
RG: How important has the machine been to the success of Elite over the years?
SW: Pivotal. Without the Spectrum, Elite’s early years would not have peppered with the critical and commercial successes with which it was so fortunate to be associated. More than 100 people were directly employed by Elite in those early years and 100s of thousands of people enjoyed some exquisitely executed ‘Spectrum versions’ of great arcade games like Bombjack, Commando, Paperboy and so many others. More recently, since the advent of ‘modern’ mobile games in 2003, the relationships which Elite forged in the heyday of the Spectrum have been renewed and a number of those great arcade games have been central to Elite’s mobile games offering.
RG: Why do you think the Spectrum has found a new lease of life on iOS?
SW: Our view is that the importance which Apple attach to IP (intellectual property) and the effectiveness of their App Review process has been central to the Spectrum achieving a new lease of life on iOS. Prior to iOS (and indeed even today in the case of most Android devices), access to Spectrum games was and is still effectively confined to tacky emulators and illegally hosted game ROMS,via the internet. As a direct result of Apple’s intervention, developers such as Elite can anticipate a return of their investment when creating bespoke apps, like our ZX Spectrum: Elite Collection apps and when carrying out any necessary changes to the original Spectrum games, to create a well-rounded pocket-sized Spectrum experience both on iPhone, iPad and in the future on Apple TV.
Issue 102 of Retro Gamer goes on sale 26th April – this Thursday.