Mar 10, 2012
You know you’re old when you think about something retro and then wonder if it’s actually retro, or just part of your own personal history.
Take Retro Gaming. I always smile when I see things being posted online about retro gaming and the information starts with the Nintendo Entertainment System, or even the N64!
Video gaming history began quite a while before that, arguably with pinball (no, not THAT pinball, I’m on about proper steel ball pinball). The first arcade system was apparently a game called Computer Space (1971) that preceded Pong! by about a year. I’m just going by the information available on that one though as it was before my time…. There were a number of home consoles floating about the market at the same time offering such technological delights as Pong! or TV Football as it was more popularly known on other formats. The first being The Odyssey back in 1972. But video games really came in to prominence in the late 1970′s with Space Invaders and Asteroids.
In the UK, no chip shop, Chinese takeaway or pub was complete without one of the holy trinity of arcade cabinets. And these remained a constant right through until the mid-90′s when revenue pumping video gambling cabinets began replacing the traditional games.
However, it wasn’t until mass production in the early 80′s that gaming really started to take off. Handhelds by Nintendo introduced us to Donkey Kong and Mario.
Meanwhile the home computer market was in its infancy. The first mass market heavily advertised personal computer in the UK was the Sinclair ZX-80. The ZX-81 was the first computer to enter our household.
Words cannot describe the frustrations that came with the ZX-81. On the one hand WE HAD A COMPUTER IN OUR HOUSE. We were virtually NASA! On the other hand, anything you wanted to do had to be inputted first.
There were magazines available with progams in them for you to type in, but spending four hours typing in 500 lines of code only to get a syntax error is arguably the beginning of the two major maladies of todays society: obesity and rage.
Over the next couple of years there were a number of home computers released such as the Acorn Electron. The mainstay at the beginning of the computing revolution in education however, was the BBC-B.
It wouldn’t be until 1986 that another computer would enter our household. This time it was the Amstrad CPC464, sporting 64kb of memory and built in tape drive. The future had arrived. In the market at the same time was the descendant of the ZX-81, the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64.
For many years these three platforms vied for market prominence, but with better marketing creating a larger market share it was the ZX Spectrum that became the most prevalent. A situation that made those with the more powerful and graphically superior Amstrad and Commodore machines suffer game ports from Spectrum titles.
One thing that is certain is that during those formative years, early games machines helped identify those with photo-sensitive epilepsy as most games involved eye wateringly sickening flashing screens.
If you can speak French, you can understand what’s going on in this advert for the Amstrad CPC464 from about 1988/89 (must be around that time as they have the light gun):
And for all your viewing pleasures I’ve embarked on my own journey down reminiscence lane by revisiting all things Amstrad gaming in my own YouTube series: