ZX81 home computer

Love and PCs - fond memories of our first computers

2 Feb 2017

2 min read

Everyone old enough to have a proper job remembers their first computer. No matter how many you've used or owned over the years, nearly all of us look back with nostalgia on our first.

To prove the point, we did a quick staff survey to share memories of our first PCs and favourite games. While most of us owned our first computer at some point during the '80s, the results highlighted just how old - and young - some of us are!

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K

Paul Humphreys, Art Director

I was the proud owner of the glorious Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48K (original rubber key edition, obviously). I must have had two or three of them before getting my hands on the bigger and more traditionally 'computery' Spectrum+.

Crazily, whenever it would break (about once a year), Sinclair would give you a brand new computer and another year's guarantee. People think it was the C5 that caused Sir Clive’s downfall but Spectrum owners know different.

One of my favourite games was Manic Miner, a crazy platformer with a brilliantly simple soundtrack that burrowed deep into your brain and possibly inspired a certain rotund Italian plumber's later adventures.

Another time vampire (apart from loading games from C16 tape) was Lords of Midnight, a kind of Lord of the Rings / fantasy / role playing game with primitive graphics and an immersive storyline that trapped me in an 8 bit ‘Mordor’ from Friday after school through the night until Sunday morning.

10 PRINT “Paul Humphreys”
20 GO TO 10

Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128K

Lewis Macintyre, Design Director

At the risk of sounding old, I remember when a computer game would take the best part of 10 mins to load from a cassette tape only to crash at the very last minute. Then, with all the skill and dexterity of a virtuoso pianist, you had to propel Daley Thompson into an Olympic record-breaking high jump, using a combination four letter keys and a spacebar.

So, imagine my delight when, on my 7th birthday, I got a Quickshot 2 joystick. It was like bringing the games arcade in to your own home, well kind of…

A year later, and because I had shown an interest in art, my mum and dad bought me an AMX Art program with my first mouse. It was totally lo-tech. Kind of like a black and white Photoshop with a max resolution of about 20dpi but I thought it was great.

For anyone up for a chuckle, here's a humorous link to excerpts from the Spectrum manual which talks about mastering the ‘point and click’ skills required to operate the mouse. : )

Sinclair ZX81

Julian Crichlow, Studio Manager

I convinced my mum that I needed it for homework but really it was only for gaming. Fondest memory was saving my pocket money to buy extra RAM to increase the 1KB RAM to a whopping 16KB. My favourite game was 3D Monster Maze. Stunning graphics (at the time).

Crawford Tait, Head of Digital

I recently failed to find my old ZX81 at my folks' house, though I know it's still in there somewhere. I did, however, find most of my games (see below).

BBC Microcomputer

Catherine Watson, Senior Digital Account Manager

My brother and I were given a BBC Micro to share for Christmas circa 1982. Sadly, being five years younger, I enjoyed far less 'screen time' than he did due to his superior gaming skills. Apart from a constant sense of injustice, my main memory is waiting FOREVER for cassettes to load while listening to weird, unsettling space sounds only to get an error message 20 minutes later.

Favourite games were classics like Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Chuckie Egg as well as the mind-blowingly cool Castle Quest - marketed as 'the most challenging video game ever devised'. You could even win a prize if you could beat it within a week of buying it. Not that I ever stood of chance of doing that!

Atari 2600

Ally McGurn, Digital Project Manager

My first console was the mighty Atari. I had a handful of great games for it but my first real gaming experience was Shinobi, sparking my lifetime obsession with ninjas.

Nintendo Game Boy

Sonia Chury, Junior Account Director

As a child of the 80/90s, my very own first piece of computing was actually a Nintendo Game Boy. At the ripe old of age of ten, I was already last on the bandwagon. Having begged, pleaded and harangued my parents for what felt like an eternity (for them and me), they gave in. I was the proud owner of a Nintendo Game Boy for £50, which came with two games: Super Mario and Donkey Kong. It was as light and portable as a brick, needed to be attached to a power source most of the time and had all the technicolor glory of a magpie, but it gave hours of joy for the children of the 90s. Pretty sure it's at my mum's, still in its original carry case.

NB: The IBM Access Aptiva was our first actual family computer, which was a step up from the boring Panasonic word processor we’d had until then and it was my dad’s pride. It was all black (which was unusual at the time), with a secret hidden floppy disk AND CD ROM port, large screen with built in speakers, a plug in web cam, and of course - dial up internet access (you know the ‘boingy' ringtone) - it was the height of technology. And where did it live? In it’s own computer station in the spare room, complete with a CD tower. The best thing was that it had a total RAM of 500MB so after about 3 years, it didn’t have enough memory to turn itself on!

Commodore Amiga 500

Ross McCully, Digital Designer

The Amiga and The Secret of Monkey Island (the greatest game known to man) shaped who I am today. I loved the adventure, the romance and the humour (which the Pirates of the Caribbean movies ripped off completely!).

I'll never forget beating the sword master for the first time…so much so that I still use the name 'Guybrush Threepwood' as my manager alias on Football Manager.

Dave Johnson, Senior Digital Designer

Snap! Although Silly Putty was my favourite game.

Commodore 64

Nicola Devine, Digital Designer

The Commodere 64 was the bees knees. You could make pictures by colouring lines on the TV. Then after spending hours creating a masterpiece you just had to switch it off as you couldn't save it! A few stand out games were Treasure Island Dizzy, Rainbow Islands and Bubble Bobble.

Katie Gaughan​, Senior Designer

Me too! As well as Transformers, I also really liked the programme Little Computer People. You could type instructions in and the wee characters did it. Cool!

The iMac G3

John Rendell, Design Director

My first computer was one of those 'see through’ iMacs. I got it in 1999 during my final year at university. I don’t really remember much about the actual computer itself other than it saved me from the daily scrum of the art department computer room where you had to queue up to book a computer at the end of the previous day - along with the hundreds of other people who had also left everything to the week before a deadline!

It wasn’t a great system to be honest. You could only book the computers in hourly slots, the first and last 10 minutes of which were wasted whilst you copied your files to and from a Zip Disk (Zip Disks! Hahaha!).

Microsoft Windows

Oli Fisher, Designer

I didn’t know what the make / model of my first computer was - just that it was Windows-related, a delightful beige colour and that I spent most of my teenage years waiting for it to boot up.

I do remember my first game though - Roller Coaster Tycoon. In short, you have a park and it's your job to fill it with rides, attractions and shops to entertain the hundreds of punters that flock there. Or, if you wanted to be mean, you could purposefully crash coasters, charge for bathrooms, and put 'No Entry' signs in front of the park exit.

Life’s thrills aye!

Baby's First Computer

Myrto Kontouli

Mine was something very similar to this but from the late 1990s - early 2000s (if not the exact same). Yeah… feel old everyone! :)

If you've got a 'my first computer' tale to tell, then please share it with us. We know you're all desperate to relive those memories of slow-loading C16 cassettes, 1KB RAM capacity and monochrome green screens!

#computerprogramming #team999 #technology

Written by

Catherine Watson, Digital Marketer at 999 Design

Catherine Watson

Digital Marketer