After Hours

Gallery: The outer limits of vintage technology

ZDNet UK was a proud media sponsor for the first vintage computer festival ever held in the UK. ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins was at the weekend event at Bletchley Park and captured the sheer geekish joy that 2,000 visitors and 32 exhibitors generated.?

?One exhibit featured the Sinclair ZX81. Seen here to the right of its whiter ancestor, the ZX80, the computer was the first mass-market success for UK home computing.?

?Incorporating a Ferranti ULA (Uncommitted Logic Array), which was the first semi-custom logic chip in a consumer product, the ZX81 cost under £100 and required nothing more than a tape player and a TV to work. The user was expected to program the computer themselves, and it came with a substantial programmer's manual that — for the adventurous — included a complete Z80 instruction set and list of internal memory locations.?

?The game on the screen here, 3D Monster Maze, was one of many that achieved the near-impossible by creating a real gaming experience from the upper-case-only, black-and-white, 32x24 character screen.?

?Reputedly, the ZX81 was the only product that made a profit for Sinclair Research: although the ZX Spectrum sold more, the high rate of returns of the device was expensive to maintain.?

?Also in this picture are the ZX Printer, which spark-eroded patterns onto metallicised paper, and the ZX Microdrives, which are endless loops of tape that frequently consumed more data than they regurgitated.?

Photos and captions: Rupert Goodwins, ZDNet UK