This was written for someone else but didn’t make the grade, so I thought I’d post it here instead…

My Introduction to Me

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Actually, that’s not true, but I do remember the very first time I saw a computer and that’s what this is really about. The memory is etched into my mind with the same intensity as the very first time I saw the Goatse image.

I must have been 10 years old and at school they wheeled in to the classroom one of those equipment stands on castors and I remember the hush that descended as the Commodore Pet II computer was pushed to the front of the class to take pride of place.

We were each divided into pairs of children and then ushered forward to play on the computer for about fifteen minutes. The black and green screen seemed like the future had arrived and I was astounded by this maths game in which, if you got an answer right, a pixellated green robot would destroy offending numbers with a laser bolt from his singular eye.

And that’s when I fell in love…

Forget girls and the garden of earthly delights – computers were the thing I was interested in. Surprisingly, there were a number of computer magazines available for sale back in the day and I used to spend my pocket money on this fusty tomes, which contained details of obscure long-dead companies touting their vision of a personal computer future.

The Sinclair ZX80 and its big brother, the ZX81, never appealed to me. Black & white? The future isn’t going to be black-and-white, it’s going to be technicolour, I raged and when the ZX Spectrum arrived in those magazine adverts, emblazoned with a rainbow flash of colour, I knew that was the device to which I’d lose my computing virginity.

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I still remember the day my mother said she was going to WH Smith at Stratford to get my ZX Spectrum and racing home from school to experience the delight of opening the box and setting up for the first time. However, despite being called the ZX Spectrum and having the multi-coloured insignia, we never had a colour TV at home, oh the irony. So the future for me was to be monochrome until 1987 when we took delivered of a Saisho colour TV with Teletext.

Of course, every kid at the time would say: “Of course, you can use it for education” the main use of the ZX Spectrum was to play the titles of the day and I was enthralled by the work of Ultimate Play the Game and ate up Jet-Pac, Psst, Cookie, TrDSCF0158anz Am et al. That company was also my first experience of mail order, when I sent off a postal order and waited six weeks for Underwurlde & Knight Lore to arrive. I was the first to get them and the envy of the school Spectrum set.

 

 

DSCF0161As time passed, my interest waned and I got into music instead and my interest in computing took a back seat for a while. But suffice to say, I am one of those sorts who has owned nearly all the mainstream consoles in his time. I was the guy who queued up at Currys at Edmonton on a chilly Saturday morning for the original Sony PlayStation and returned there two years later to pick up my reserved Nintendo 64 from the Comet next door.

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I have kept this interest up though despite owning every generation of console, I’ve found myself in the Microsoft Xbox camp – even though when it was announced, I remember writing that I thought it was a big mistake for Microsoft to get involved in gaming after the Sega Dreamcast debacle. But they proved me wrong.

But despite all this, I sit here now completely disenfranchised by the current gaming climate. The other night I wanted to play Elite Dangerous on the Xbox One. Again, reliving my childhood playing the original Elite on the ZX Spectrum, I have enjoyed this rusty-coloured exercise in nostalgia. However, when I sat down to play I kept getting kicked from their server. Never had this problem back in the 1980s, I grumbled.

Last night, I received a message from Xbox Mission Control telling me I’d be given a free jet car from Fallout 4 to play in Forza 6. I fired up the game, only for it to stall and refuse to start.

“This game took too long to start” – the Xbox informed me unhelpfully. Thanks, really – you really shouldn’t have bothered. I just want to race the jet car. So I tried again and again and again, until I gave up. Then I thought I’d be clever and reinstall Forza 6 from the disc – however, this is 45Gb in size and takes what feels like forever and a day to do.

“I’m sure the ZX Spectrum loaded games faster than this” – I grumbled to The Missus…

Then I thought I’d catch up on some Grand Theft Auto 5, but that wouldn’t work. You see, the Xbox One cannot do two things at once. It cannot install a game and play GTA5 – so I had to suspend the installation just to play the other game.

So it took about 20 minutes before I’d even had the pleasure of shooting a virtual citizen of Los Santos in the face for no real reason whatsoever…

I’m 45 years old. The clock is ticking for me, I could be dead tomorrow and yet we live in the 21st century; a 21st century where men aren’t living on the moon and we don’t have our own personal jet packs. We live in a 21st century where it takes me 20 minutes to get a game working because some bozo decided to make a console more like a PC than it needs to be.

And don’t get me started on online gaming…


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