The Story of the ZX Spectrum in Pixels by Chris Wilkins – review

Imagine Christmas 1983 if you will. An excited young boy has been asking (probably annoying) his parents for the latest Sinclair computer for nigh on a year. Fed up of his ZX81’s wobbly 16K RAM pack, often the undoer of many a programming session, he longs for more. A machine with sound …and colour. Doesn’t sound like much to ask for nowadays, but back in ’83 it was the next big thing to a kid on a council estate.

The young boy was me of course, and that year I was lucky enough to receive a nice new ZX Spectrum 48K with it’s seven colours and it’s beeps …and I loved it. Loading the colour demos from that Horizons cassette was met with “oohs” and “aahs” from the whole family, used to seeing monochrome output from my now redundant Zeddy. To this day, My ZX Spectrum is the best Christmas present I ever received. I still have it, and it still works, albeit minus it’s original box.

The ZX Spectrum, whilst not my first (computing) love, was certainly a big influence on my early computing years. With it, I learned to code which, after a few twists and turns, eventually led to a career in web development.

The foreword in The Story of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum in Pixels has much the same story, just told by a different 44 year old; Chris Wilkins. And there is a big percentage of a whole generation of early British home micro users that can probably tell similar stories too.

Despite the ZX Spectrum’s enduring popularity, surprisingly little ink has been spilt retrospectively on the subject and so it is no wonder that Chris had little difficulty in getting his Kickstarter funded, receiving around 130% of the original target. Mr. Wilkins is no newcomer to getting books funded this way, Fusion Retro Books have already published one excellent book; The History of Ocean which has been fondly received by the retrogaming community. Also in progress is another fully funded Kickstarter campaign for a book on The History of US Gold, which is due for publication in August 2015.

Inside the book

As if in testimony to the ZX Spectrum’s enormous games library spanning decades, the first impression you get from the book is that is jam packed full and certainly has more pages than I had expected, 234 in total. The cover is in black and sports an embossed Sinclair logo and the iconic Spectrum rainbow flash making it instantly recognisable to anyone who had even the faintest interest in microcomputing in the early 80s.

Upon opening the book, you are met with the aforementioned foreword by Chris and a piece by Rick Dickinson, the designer of Sinclair products throughout the early 80s including the ZX80, ZX81, Spectrum and FTV-1 to name just a few. In this, Rick goes through the trials of designing award winning micros for Sir Clive and without going into any detail lets just say it makes insightful reading.

Interspersed throughout the book are Spectrum adverts from the era adding an element of nostalgic interest, but the main draw of the book is of course its games section. A poster/flyer, loading screen and in-game graphics adorn each spread along with a synopsis of each featured game. These give just enough detailed information about each game’s gameplay and background along with some personal recollections from Spectrum loving individuals.

The book is finished off with some amazing memoirs from various Spectrum game programmers and artists such as the Oliver twins, Jonathan Cauldwell and Steve Turner and also features a memoir from Roger Kean, editor of Crash.

Summary

In short, The Story of the ZX Spectrum in Pixels is a must-buy for any ZX Spectrum fan or indeed, anyone who used a ZX Spectrum back in the day. It is a book I have been awaiting quite a long time now and my high praise of this book is such that I cannot wait for the fully funded Part 2 and the recently announced Part 3 to be alongside this one on my retro book shelf.

5-out-of-5

The Story of the ZX Spectrum in Pixels can be purchased by visiting Fusion Retro Books

 

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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