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September 25, 2013 / Daniel Freeman

8-Bit Nostalgia

About 30 years ago, I had some computer programs published in popular UK computer magazines of the time.  Simple graphics experiments that I’d written while still at school.  Time has passed, and I’d lost any record that I had – apart from my vague recollections.  But this summer, I was visiting the UK, so I decided to dig up my past in the British Library, and indulge in a little microcomputer nostalgia.

magazines

I had to wade through several thick bound volumes from the archives before I struck gold.  Glossy-page recollections of a very different technological time.  8-bit microcomputers.  Most were slow, black-and-white, with blocky lo-res graphics and no sound.  But with these humble and primitive beginnings – the consumer Home Microcomputer boom took off in the UK, just before it took off in America.

In the hours that I spend flicking through the archived magazines – I found the two wireframe graphics programs that I remembered.  Both written on the school RML 380Z.  And a machine code utility, (which I don’t remember), but obviously written on my friend’s Sharp MZ-80K.  The final program, I lifted from a digital online archive.  It had been written on my own Sinclair ZX81 – the first computer I owned.  I’d worked a summer job in a green-grocers to afford it.  It had 16Kbytes Ram, a “real” keyboard, built from a Maplin kit, and a DK-Tronics ROM with extra character sets.  Programs were stored on cassette tape.

ZX81

All my published programs were written in BASIC.  Some have Z80 code thrown-in.  In those days, I could write Z80 machine code, straight from my head, directly in Hex.

It might be cool if anyone’s up to the challenge of re-writing the old 380Z BASIC code using contemporary Stage3D or WebGL instead.  Any takers?

Screen shot 2013-09-25 at 22.27.20

Here are the full published listings of the two wireframe graphics programs.  graph3d (Practical Computing. September 1983. Pages 154 and 157). and plotting (Practical Computing. March 1984. Page 172).

The final two programs are hybrid BASIC + Z80 code for manipulating the memory-mapped display in weird and wonderful ways.  Likely not relevant to the way things work nowadays – but nostalgic nevertheless.  Here’s the listing for the ZX81(Sinclair Programs May 1983 page 20):-
fastdisplay
And here is the program for the Sharp MZ-80K are here: MZ80K1 and here: MZ80K2.  (Personal Computer World. Pages 265 and 266).

Sharp MZ80K

If you’re reading this – and you also remember those days with fond nostalgia – feel free to leave a comment below.

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Dominic Lee / Jan 21 2014 7:23 pm

    Oh damn that brings back memories. I also rocked an MZ-80K and whiled away many hours playing Orb of Zot.

  2. ged / Feb 28 2014 4:18 am

    Thanks for sharing your nostalgia trip.

    My first computer was the ZX81, followed shortly after by the MZ80K. I spent hours coding on it. Still have the cassettes with all the programs I typed in from the mags or wrote myself.

    I don’t have my original MZ but managed to pick one up on eBay. It didn’t switch as the PSU had blown. I repl SASced the capacitors and up she fired! PURE NOSTALGIA! 🙂

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