Computer Life - First 30 Years

Ah yes, the year of 1981. 30 years ago. It was a time when first commercial home computers arrived in stores worldwide. More or less. Importantly, that particular year I entered famous teenager years and I always wondered what would happen if home computers arrived couple of years later and avoided my teen days, allowed me to have different childhood with different options for life later? Would I be different person with different career today? Probably. I remember I was on the edge by choosing my professional career and was ready to go for science, most likely in physics or astronomy as those two fascinated me at the time the most. They still influence me a lot, probably because of the same reasons computers hooked me - they are so mysterious and provide endless pleasurable time of unlocking the nature.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum

But no, computers arrived just the same year when I turned 13 years old, when I was the most emotionally disturbed by various hormones and other chemicals suddenly released in young boy's body and I was hooked big time. They were so attractive, so mysterious, so colorful, so enigmatic, so... new. I instantly learned BASIC and dived into world of zeros and ones. And the video games... They were so addictive, solving puzzles, killing aliens, eating dots and ghosts, you name it. I still remember that year when I was on summer holiday in Greece with my parents waiting every day in line to take my couple of minutes in front of big video console driving a giant lady bug throughout a maze avoiding some villain insects.. After 30 years now, here I am, still playing with computer, only now for money writing (sometimes pretty complex) software applications on daily bases, learned so far maybe around 15 programming languages with all their variations, still playing video games, now with my son, only now old lady bug evolved into bigger angry bird, but in a nutshell nothing dramatically changed over the years. But comparing to other careers, being a software developer is a good thing. At least for me, as computers provide constant hunger for learning new stuff, they are changing every day and in the days full of programming hours I feel like I am having a real contribution to the world. Not the big one, but surely the feeling is right.

There was a trap in the software career back in the time when I was younger. I was thinking to join some big companies, to go abroad and work on more significant projects in the field of developing operating systems or programming languages themselves.. But I decided that this was not for me. This was a path where I would be just a small bolt in the giant industry and that would require big sacrifices. If I did that I would definitively have to stop with other activities, hobbies and would have much less family time, and I knew for sure that if I didn't have all that I would be no good and would probably sink in small cubical or even worse evolved into a boss type of person that I never liked and would never be good at.

Personal Computer i286

So 30 years of computer evolution passed in a flash of the eye and from my first home computer Sinclair ZX Spectrum til today's PC what's really changed maybe the best is self described by simple comparison in their subsystems: CPU speed was at 3.5MHz comparing to my current HP 8710w laptop with dual processor running on 2.5GHz. ZX had 16kB of ROM and 16kB of RAM memory and I remember I had it's ROM printed on paper in full Z80's assembly language. Comparing to that, HP has it's own 4GB capacity and printing it's OS would be similar to printing complete DNA sequence of mine. Display was 32x24 characters with some color limitations, while I am looking right now a 24" monitor in HD resolution. ZX didn't have any hard disk extended memory, just a simple way of recording software on outside tape recorder where all zeros and ones were represented with it's own sound. What is similar to nowadays internet I remember that some radio stations were broadcasting Spectrum's programs live in the air. We were recording them on magnetic tapes and then loaded into memory. This great ZX Spectrum times of my teenager years lasted for maybe 4 years when first PC computer appeared with their floppy disks and small hard drives. My parents were taken two car trips to Munich (around 1000km) back in 1988 just to complete our first home PC 286. ZX served for many more years as a developing system in our lab where my parents and I created couple of industrial controllers based on Zilog's Z80 8 bits CPU. Almost a decade this little CPU and ZX Spectrum carried a serious business within industrial means. Amazing what was possible to be done in just couple of kilobytes of free space.

With today's update of the post I am embedding full ZX Spectrum emulator written entirely in JavaScript. Also there are couple of games below with my absolute favourite "Jumping Jack". To enjoy it full screen click on "Full screen" link and then "Insert" to load games.


To conclude with some wisdom everybody knows today, 30 years of working in IT business was really dynamical and enjoyable and now when I look thousands or tens of thousands or even more lines of code behind me, it makes me little proud. Sometimes, when I start some application I made years ago I simply can't believe it is my work and for some I don't even remember the story behind and even programming language is a bit unfamiliar after years of its extinction.

Sinclair ZX Spectrum
http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/sinclair/computers/zxspectrum/zxspectrum.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZX_Spectrum

Peek & Poke
http://www.peekpoke.hr/en

HP 8710w:
http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=3864

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