A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Anything Sinclair ZX Basic related; history, development, tips - differences between BASIC on the ZX80 and ZX81
AmericanPi
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A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by AmericanPi » Fri Jan 13, 2017 8:10 pm

Hey ya'll

Growing up using windows and never doing anything more than chopping and cutting computer parts together is something so many people in my generation know all to well. We care about Computer Science, we love computers, and most importantly (and my point here) we recognize the importance and "coolness" of retro computers but are alone in our search for learning.

We come from families, communities, and occupations where exposure to the knowledge and people like on this excellent forum are limited, if not non-existant. We buy old/retro computers like the ZX81 (my first and only right now) not because we're fan-boys but because we believe there is value in starting from scratch and because we believe there is so much to be learned from a community who lived it :!:

I connect with the way of thinking I believe so many of you all do and my interest, curiosity, and appetite for knowledge along with a want for like minded community are the strongest drivers in m life . People here are from all over the world. People here know so much. People here have been nothing but welcoming and kind. In a community were only the bad guys are respected and rewarded Sinclair ZX World has become my haven.

I come here every time I go to the library (I don't have access to the net where I live) and exhale as I dive into threads like:
ZX BASIC Performance
Speccy on the Zeddy
_and when I'm not here i wonder about things that I read and learned in our forum.

I thought to myself (to finish my point) that myself and others like myself who have a serious care for Critical thinking and learning, believe we're destined for something greater, and know we're fish (others may say geeks) out of water feel overwhelmed. And sometimes, we feel like theres so much information and we are so late to the game that there's no amount of reading and learning independently that will bring us to a place where we can really connect with you all and join the conversation in earnest.

I'm halfway through the Sinclair manual that came with my (mint condition, in the box all original literature and hardware :wink:) ZX81, I'm halfway through a Learn Java in 21 Days book, I'm at the beginning of a older Computer Science Text Book. I hope my efforts in the aforementioned will be enough.

But there's so much information:!: Where do we begin? Are there Mentors here or is this only the haven of information I've happily found it to be so far. As someone going it alone but putting in the time I beg for answers and direction. I've found nowhere else is there a platform/community so enthusiastic about contribution than Sinclair ZX World.

I look forward to your thoughts on mine and I thank you for your time.
And If your a Newb learner like me reading this, know your in great company.

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RetroTechie
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by RetroTechie » Sat Jan 14, 2017 5:14 am

Not entirely sure what you're getting at, but nonetheless: great post! :D

Reads like something I might write myself when I slept well, in a happy / creative mood, feeling a good meal kick in, and a glass of wine makes me hit my Ballmer peak. :lol:
AmericanPi wrote:(..) we recognize the importance and "coolness" of retro computers but are alone in our search for learning.
Well... no. Piecing together pre-built parts is the thing these days. No need to re-invent the wheel every time. And therefore Arduino, RPi, drones & co is where it's at these days. A firmware programmer is not something you build. But something you buy, and start using to do things that are more interesting than building a firmware programmer. ;)
"Start from scratch" still appeals to some people for some things, but in general that's a very small % of people, and very small % of projects. That small % is in good company over here though. :D
I thought to myself (to finish my point) that myself and others like myself who have a serious care for Critical thinking and learning, believe we're destined for something greater, and know we're fish (others may say geeks) out of water feel overwhelmed. And sometimes, we feel like theres so much information and we are so late to the game that there's no amount of reading and learning independently that will bring us to a place where we can really connect with you all and join the conversation in earnest.
For myself: CURIOSITY has always been an important drive throughout my life (on a side note: curiosity is the ONE thing that sets scientists -I'm not one btw- apart from other people. That and imagination). Most people are given a "box", and ask what they 'should' do with it. I'm given a "box", and ask where it came from. Why it was given to me. What's inside, etc. Because over time I've learned those other questions are often more interesting than the standard application of "box". Walk the path least taken because it'll be harder but more rewarding.
I'm halfway through the Sinclair manual (..)
Assuming you're referring to that book with the Blade Runner style blueish / red front cover: it's been a while since I dug into it, but remember it as one of the better written manuals out there - on any subject. You could do worse than work through that.
But there's so much information:!: Where do we begin? Are there Mentors here or is this only the haven of information I've happily found it to be so far. As someone going it alone but putting in the time I beg for answers and direction. I've found nowhere else is there a platform/community so enthusiastic about contribution than Sinclair ZX World.
Keep looking! There's many forums, sites and communities out there. Each unique in their own way.

Code: Select all


To follow the path:

look to the master
follow the master
walk with the master
see through the master
become the master

In other words: there are no job titles here. Just pick & choose what you like...

Moggy
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by Moggy » Sat Jan 14, 2017 3:13 pm

One thing that's always amazed me is the love for for something so particular in its Britishness as the 81.
By this I mean for example, built to lowest possible spec and price(British), cost cutting keyboard which was out of step with rest of the world though now the staple of portable computing devices everywhere (British), klutzed early ROMS with a Mickey Mouse fix but sell it anyway(British,though Intel may have borrowed the idea for their Pentium floating point unit) and a ULA chip which instead of using two thirds of its internals as recommended by its creators, used a hundred percent of its internals-said-advice-being-duly-ignored,thus ensuring no more cold winter nights..BRITISH . You get the idea.

Yet for all that the people who love and contribute towards the little black door wedge reads like the members list of the united nations!

By my own feeble estimation this forum alone is populated by, in no particular order...

Russian-Polish-German-French-Dutch-Brazilian-Spanish-American-Canadian-Scandinavian and British Zedders..(apologies to any country I missed)

A true brotherhood bound together by the love for an obsolete-at-the-time string and gas power computer, invented purely to raise funds for uncle Clive,(who had no bloody interest in it), to waste on electric powered transport.(I think that's right?)

Long may our love affair continue. :D

All tongue in cheek of course. :lol:

AmericanPi
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by AmericanPi » Sat Jan 14, 2017 5:37 pm

RetroTechie wrote:Not entirely sure what you're getting at, but nonetheless: great post! :D
That's hilarious :!: :lol:
RetroTechie wrote: "Start from scratch" still appeals to some people for some things, but in general that's a very small % of people, and very small % of projects. That small % is in good company over here though. :D
That's why I feel relaxed here.
RetroTechie wrote:. Walk the path least taken because it'll be harder but more rewarding.
Jeff Brenzel, the Dean for Undergraduate Admissions at Yale university has a Floating University Lecture that talks about taking the road less travel. I agree @RetroTechie. "It's the view!"
RetroTechie wrote: Assuming you're referring to that book with the Blade Runner style blueish / red front cover:...
OH MAN! That book is awesome. I mean for a super beginner it's great. Well....it can be cryptic in some ways but for a book from 82' it's still a great straightforward manual to coding, albeit for Sinclair Basic.
RetroTechie wrote: Keep looking! There's many forums, sites and communities out there. Each unique in their own way.
I after your response, and leme tell ya it really hits home and is just what i needed/wanted to hear, I think I found the place I'm going to invest my time and effort in. Too much in too many places just isn't my thing.
RetroTechie wrote:

Code: Select all

To follow the path:

look to the master
follow the master
walk with the master
see through the master
become the master
_says the master

Hey thanks RetroTechie. I appreciate all the feedback and all the support.
_i'm gotta go check out that Ballmer Peak stuff ltr though

AmericanPi
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by AmericanPi » Sat Jan 14, 2017 5:53 pm

Moggy wrote:One thing that's always amazed me is the love for for something so particular in its Britishness as the 81.
You wana know something Moggy? Of course you do.
The whole British thing isn't really what does it for me personally. For me it's the story and the notion that back when PC's were so expensive this one did it for a "ton" (is that how you guys say it?) :wink:.

And since you asked (even though you didn't) I wish America had a fairytale story like this. I've been thinking about doing something for America that's kinda like the ZX81, actually it's inspired by another British PC (SBC), RPi. I'm gonna get a kick starter goin soon as i can get a prototype made and I'll put a link to an explanation video up for ya'll one day.

The ZX81 has been so inspirational to so many people all over the world and the fact that people, like myself for instance, can connect with it more than 30 years after it's launch speaks volumes to British ingenuity and know how.

I mean really though, Here's a group of people who put something together that was small, lightweight, and that keyboard is so cool (not to functional as far as keyboards go though) and then sold Millions of em':!:
Moggy wrote: Russian-Polish-German-French-Dutch-Brazilian-Spanish-American-Canadian-Scandinavian and British Zedders..(apologies to any country I missed)

A true brotherhood bound together by the love for an obsolete-at-the-time string and gas power computer...
...Long may our love affair continue. :D
Yea, this place is great. And yes we are in love with our machines. I'm learning so much and it's really fun to chat with peeps from all over the world. I mean thats crazy awesome.
All tongue in cheek of course. :lol:
Uh huh.... :roll: jk

Moggy
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by Moggy » Sat Jan 14, 2017 8:54 pm

The weirdest thing though to my mind is how due to a lack of support,peripheral wise, by Sinclair a massive cottage industry sprouted in the UK. External keyboards and various other add ons appeared and if you ever checked the addresses in the computer magazines for some of these companies many of them were "uncle Pete" home bedroom/basement affairs, no matter how grand a title they used in the magazines.

Anyhow look forward to your future projects AP and welcome to the club. :D


Best regards.

Moggy.

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RetroTechie
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by RetroTechie » Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:03 pm

Moggy wrote:The weirdest thing though to my mind is how due to a lack of support,peripheral wise, by Sinclair a massive cottage industry sprouted in the UK.
Like what peripherals? A dedicated monitor? A better tape recorder than common ones around? Keyboard? Sure kb was crap but that was Sir Clive's choice for whatever reason(s). With that choice made, it was kind of begging for others to step in & provide a better keyboard. Oh and he did produce that printer that didn't even need ink cartridges! :mrgreen:

Let's not forget the context here. Before the early 80's, computers were build-it-yourself kits. A one-chip CPU was relatively new. Computers at the time were mostly mainframes, super-expensive PC predecessors and such. People didn't have computers in their home. NONE. 0. Never mind 2, 3, 20, give or take a few smartphones & RPi's. :lol:

So to break open that market, you couldn't do anything else than use existing hardware wherever practical. Plain RF TV set for display, mono tape recorder for storage, done. Other design choices / software features etc follow from that. These days, people do not want to bother RTFM, fiddling with software configs and so on. Just buy, use for intended purpose & enjoy. Back then, you'd want to read TFM if only to figure out what this machine was, what it could do, or how to arrange bytes :lol: in memory such that it left enough room for your self-written bookkeeping program.

I tend to view technology progress as an ecosystem, where @ some point you progress to a point where a next step becomes very, very likely if not inevitable. Combustible fumes - oxygen - spark style. That spark may occur sooner or later, fumes & oxygen come in different shapes, but once in place, ignition is likely. If a farmer cleared his field, put in fertilizer, and spring rolls in, something growing there will happen. Maybe it's maize, or potatoes, maybe it's peas, or maybe it's weeds when the field is neglected. But once conditions are right, a few seeds will turn the field green. Sinclair just happened to be the guy planting a good seed @ the right time in ready-for-home-computer-revolution UK soil. Maybe he was a visionary, maybe just lucky. Or mix of that. But given conditions and developments back then, it was bound to happen.

Moggy
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by Moggy » Mon Jan 16, 2017 4:53 pm

I was thinking along the lines of ram-packs, joystick interfaces,eprom burners,battery backed memory boards,Memotechs hi-res units word processor,Z80 assembler, centronics interface,D/A units,modems Speech and music units just to name a few, none of which interested Sir Clive whose only motive according those around him was to fund his electric car dream via computer sales whilst having no interest in starting any kind of computing revolution except to undercut the costs of Wozniak and Jobs efforts. To this day he claims not use a PC so hardly a revolutionary whereas the likes of Dickinson Westwood, Curry, Vickers and Grant should be heralded as the true creators of the UK computer industry. :lol:

So I would say It went beyond a better tape recorder and monitor, better storage /viewing devices existed then but were too expensive for Sinclair's remit which was to make the customer provide these things rather than stand the cost himself thus undeniably creating the cottage industries I mentioned. :D

The only point I was trying to make was that it was left to others to do this rather than Sinclair whose whole desire was cost cutting wherever possible. :D

I agree there was nothing in the way of single CPU pre 80's except for the Altair , MK 14 ,TRS-80 and the Commodore PET (and any others I may have missed) in the seventies and also I agree that computers are now regarded as "white goods", turn-on-use-turn off.

I come from the generation where computers still used relays,vacuum tubes and mercury delay lines, had two now deceased friends who operated the code breaking machines at Bletchly Park who gave me their insight on how these devices worked,the impetus and design imperatives behind these devices leaves one to conclude that necessity not any ecosystem theory drove development on then whereas now fiscal reward plus implied dominance in any given world area tends to drive technological development in an assertive manner rather then an ecosystem model which is by implication passive, benign and at times only reactionary by nature depending as it does on feedback and outside influence to develop.

One of my greatest joys was being privileged enough to run a program on the oldest working vacuum tube/relay and punch tape driven main frame in the world which,along with everything else I have experienced, means I have observed at first hand,rather than any book learning I may have, how things have moved on from men in white coats operating devices at a primitive binary level to the turn-key pc's of today.

My love of the 81 is that it seems to bridge the gap between those two eras, it looks and acts in some-ways like a modern PC but you can still stick your fingers in the back and do something wonderful with it like the old steam sets of my youth. :lol:

AmericanPi
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by AmericanPi » Tue Jan 17, 2017 6:59 pm

When I opened my (Mint Condition with all literature and original parts and plastic) TS1000 it had this full page fold out that had all these accessories by Sinclair, maybe one or two by a third party, you could buy. Like the inkless printer RetroTechie mentioned, ram packs and all kinds of stuff.

Ya know, Nowadays you don't get that. I don't see windows selling the Surface Pro and putting in a brochure for accessories and printeres and stuff.
Yea sure theres the sale for MS Office and the Keyboard a million bucks extra but outside of that and some software packages you just don't get that same feel for accessories anymore.

I guess partly becaus PC's are so all in one nowadays. Still it feels really cool to look at that spread and pretend I could mail in money to Sinclair and get me a printer :lol:

Moggy
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Re: A Place for Real Computer Newbs??

Post by Moggy » Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:29 pm

AmericanPi wrote:When I opened my (Mint Condition with all literature and original parts and plastic) TS1000 it had this full page fold out that had all these accessories by Sinclair, maybe one or two by a third party, you could buy. Like the inkless printer RetroTechie mentioned, ram packs and all kinds of stuff.

Ya know, Nowadays you don't get that. I don't see windows selling the Surface Pro and putting in a brochure for accessories and printeres and stuff.
Yea sure theres the sale for MS Office and the Keyboard a million bucks extra but outside of that and some software packages you just don't get that same feel for accessories anymore.

I guess partly becaus PC's are so all in one nowadays. Still it feels really cool to look at that spread and pretend I could mail in money to Sinclair and get me a printer :lol:
Except you could not get a ZX printer in the states as it was banned by the FCC!

You had to use the far superior Alphacom 32 (Timex 2040 in the USA) rather than the clunking pile of junk that was the Sinclair printer. :lol:

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