Sinclair ZX Spectrum celebrated in UK Google Doodle

23 Apr 2012

Would you believe the Sinclair ZX Spectrum turns 30 today? The 48k home computer would be remembered fondly as the starting point for many early coding and gaming endeavours of a significant swathe of today’s IT industry.

To mark the 30th anniversary, Google has produced a colourful Doodle showing the pixilated hallmark Spectrum experience and because the ZX Spectrum shares its birthday with St George’s Day, inset is a knight on horseback fighting a dragon.

On the top right-hand corner the trademark rainbow logo for the ZX Spectrum is featured.

As one of the early ZX Spectrum adopters, the tiny little keyboard with rubber keys brings back memories of pixilated games – my favourite being Panama Joe, a kind of Indiana Jones character who leapt over firepits and scaled ladders to find treasure. Everything was controlled by hitting ‘shift’ and various cursor commands at the right instant.

It also calls to mind the squealing sound from cassette-based games and hours spent typing out thousands of lines of code from a games magazine only for our dog to thunder by pulling out the power cord as you’re about to hit ‘Run’.

An enabler for the nascent home computing industry

The ZX Spectrum, an 8-bit personal home computer made by Sinclair Research Ltd, was called the Spectrum because of its colour display, unlike its predecessor the ZX81.

Available in eight different models by 1987 it evolved to a 128k model with a built-in floppy drive and competed aggressively with the Commodore 64, the BBC Microcomputer and the Amstrad CPC in the emerging home computing market of the early to late 1980s.

Some 5m ZX Spectrum machines were sold in its lifetime and the computers earned inventor Clive Sinclair a knighthood for services to British industry.

The computer’s software language was a Sinclair derivative of BASIC and it ran off a 3.5MHz Zilog Z80A CPU. The earliest model came with 48KB of RAM.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years