Diary of an 80s Computer Geek by Steven Howlett – review

When reviewing any short book, one has to be mindful of giving too much of the plot away. For fear of being guilty of this, I will keep the synopsis of this particular title shorter and more to the point than the average.

Diary of an 80s Computer Geek almost reads like a mini autobiography. In it, the author Steven Howlett, tells of his journey from computer novice to the discovery of his talent for coding and the subsequent trials mixed with anguish, whilst desperately trying to become a published computer games author. All set during the pioneering ‘bedroom coding’ days of the early 80s. Mostly written in the present tense, it is humorous throughout and littered with references that anyone (from the UK) who was interested in home micros and grew up in that era will recognise.

…we eventually opt to buy the new and improved ZX Spectrum 48K Plus, which as the name suggests has a whopping 48K of RAM. I cannot imagine a situation where anyone would need more RAM than that, ever.

As aluded to above, it is written from a UK-centric viewpoint and the computer boom of the early 80s was very different here than most anywhere else in world. This may leave overseas readers scratching their foreheads on more than a few occasions on their transit from cover to cover. That is not to say these words are for UK readers only, on the contrary, this would make an ideal historical introduction to the early 80s coding scene in the UK, and the resulting birth of the soon-to-be highly successful UK software industry.


A great book, full of humour and certainly one that compels you to read cover to cover. Only let down by spelling mistakes that unfortunately litter its pages. If you can ignore those, you will love reading this.


Purchase the book from Amazon.co.uk

Author: Ant Harper

Father, Husband, website developer, avid gamer since the mid-70s and collector of just about anything video game related. 8-Bit microcomputer and Sinclair specialist with a huge Sinclair related collection of his own. Blogs about retro gaming here but occasionally elsewhere when people ask. Bored of Mario and never much liked Zelda. Performs quirkafleegs for cold hard cash. Often found destroying ice crowns in the Lands of Midnight. Remembers: Lunar Lander. Plays: Steel Battalion, Gears of War

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