Where to start with this one? I’ve already blogged about my Raspberry Pi’s here, and given the Raspberry Pi 400 isn’t much different from a Raspberry Pi 4 from a compute perspective, there’s probably not much point going back over old ground. No, what’s special about the Raspberry Pi 400 is how it makes you feel and the memories it resurrects!
I’ve got vague memories of a computer at home before the Sinclair ZX80, but those memories are more about trying to teach my 70-year-old Grandad how to use it some 20+ years later. It was a Sharp MX-80K and had everything built in – the computer, a monitor, keyboard and a tape deck! It was my Dad’s fascination with these that drew me in and now lives on in me today.
It’s actually the ZX80 that sticks in my mind more though, and I remember it arriving and my Dad having to ‘build’ it before you could actually use it. I was still probably a little young when it was launched and it was never really ‘my’ computer, although I have ended up with it in my garage, along with various other Sinclair antiques!
The ZX81 and it’s whopping 16KB RAM pack was most definitely mine, and I remember playing around with basic to write simple programs and loading some very simple games from the tape deck. We also had an Atari game console, which was a much better games machine at the time. I’m pretty sure my Sister has acquired that, although struggled to get it working with a modern TV, which doesn’t have the input required! It’s much easier to relive these games on a Raspberry Pi today, which I’ve blogged about before here.
You might think the ZX81 would logically lead to a ZX Spectrum, but in my case it didn’t! I’m not entirely sure why but the next computers in the house were both Dragon conputers, first a 32 and then a 64 a year or so later. By this time we’d started to use computers at school, and it was this that inspired the next one.
At school, we were using BBC Micro B computers, but these were still quite expensive. Step forward the baby brother, the Acorn Electron. It was a great little computer, and it helped a lot with school, but I was always a little jealous of the kids with ZX Spectrums and Commodore 64s which had much better games. They didn’t have Elite though!
I eventually swapped my Acorn Electron with a friend for his ZX Spectrum and a Big Trak! I thought it was the best deal in the world at the time, although I’m not entirely sure my Mum or Dad agreed.
I still have the ZX Spectrum in the garage (with the ZX80, 81 and a Sinclair XL that I have very little recollection of ever using) and I built a robot similar to Big Trak with my daughter earlier this year, which I blogged about here.
We were now entering the birth of the current x86 era of computing that for me, like many people, started with an Amstrad 1512. Oh, the power of 2 5 1/4″ Floppy Disk Drives! Again, we had some of these in school and I’m sure when it was bought this was used as much by my Dad as it was me. It did eventually become my computer at University though.
During my 1st year at University, they had an offer to buy a 286 PC with a 20MB (not GB) Hard Disk Drive and a 3.5″ FDD (although it didn’t look exactly like the picture). My Dad gave me the money to make use of this offer, but the deal was that he got the 286 computer and I got the 1512! I did end up with the 286 during my final year, and the remaining journey is a pretty boring one with upgrades of beige boxes with ever-faster processors on a far too regular basis!
I have blogged about some of the laptops I’ve bought and used over the last 20 years here, and also some of the Raspberry Pi’s here. So what is it about the Raspberry Pi 400 that inspired this blog? I think it’s the form factor of a computer in a keyboard that was so similar to those early computing days back in the 1980s, some 40 years ago. It really is quite a throwback, but so much has changed.
I never had a Commodore 64, but I do remember a time when you were either in camp Spectrum of Commodore! Many friends had them and we spent hours playing pretty much the same games and comparing the similarities. Even though I had an Electron and then Spectrum, the 64 probably was the better machine and the one to have.
It’s probably not a very fair or realistic comparison, but some of the numbers really are quite unbelievable. I’m looking forward to playing more with my new and incredibly powerful new toy…