Someone could ask: why is it useful spending energy and resources to commemorate (though it would be better to say “to exhume”) a computer science trilobite of the very first 80s? What could it add or deprive from our (digital) everyday life?
First of all, let’s say that the idea was born from a personal need to elaborate, in a correct way finally, my daily relationship with this amount of plastic, silicon and metal named Personal Computer that, as tongue in cheek, sucks a large part of my life. To do this I have not found any other solution but to go back over the steps that led me to modern computer science, starting from the beginning.. This coming back with my memory has made me discover a thing that has left me a bit bewildered: my approach to the world of personal computer coincides with the beginning of the life of Personal Computer!
I had never thought to it before, probably because I was frequently lost in the pursuit of the latest evolutionary news of these machines rather than interested in the reflection of what is happening to our planet with the advent of the PC.
Consequently it is necessary a long and profound reflection, with the following analysis: “Where are these weird contraptions from?” or “Where are they leading to?” The task could prove titanic actually, considering the discouraging extent of the topics to speak about to obtain some results. So I have had a brilliant idea: to overcome the technical/evolutionary aspects of the world of the computer science and the human/social implications associated to their use and development (themes often treated by all the media) . I want to propose an “impossible comparison“ between modern computers and what I believe to be the first real large scale Personal Computer in Italy, Sinclair ZX81, letting everyone free to summarize his/her conclusion, particularly those who know this far ancestor of modern computers. We could identify our daily relation with the Personal Computer through the comparison with “the primordial” and “the original”.
But who all this is useful to? Well, we could ask, for example, why nowadays nobody is able to go to the toilet without the help of the PC(as in the film Nirvana by Gabriele Salvatores 1997). It could be a valid question but it is not the only one..
The world of the Personal Computer has grown fast, as years pass by, with a rhythm that cannot be compared to any other thing created by man. The prospective of these “home calculators” has been
increased thousands times in few years and, even though their development has now reached unbelievable levels, so that after each new expansion we tend to believe that the ultimate limit is now close, every time here it is a new HG and/or SW update that provides new and unbelievable improvements never seen before for these tools, a few months only after the previous improvement. This fierce growth has been perpetrating, in my opinion, with rhythms that are inhuman, thus depriving us of a fundamental element: the memory of how it all began.
Then here it is the real reason for this site and maybe for a community or something like this: To remember the beginning of this era that now characterises, we like it or not, every aspect of our life before this memory gets lost for ever and with it the possibility, even if theoretically only, to reset our “computer science life” in a different way. We could consider, for example, what the PC is giving us and what it is depriving us in that very moment, maybe questioning worryingly: “Is it possible I am not able to do better than this calculator ?!?”
Perhaps it is worth trying, who knows that sometimes we think to give it up, to choose a different way even if apparently absurd or we could simply prefer a real go for a bike, a real football match, a real chat with friends, face to face, speaking of travels, cars, love affairs, PCs, instead of the quiet and fast flow of bytes..In this site I will publish everything I have hardly collected as years pass by, since 1982, when I received my first Sinclair ZX81: books, magazines, software, (either listed or digitalized audio files from audiocassettes) advertisements, images, documents, etc. Basically everything except the hardware, with the hope that this will help you to keep alive the memory of the beginning, that is “when” and “how” we started to share our life with computers. Happy return to the past!
A bit of history
Magazines, publications and technical articles on the ZX81
ZX81 Programs (and games)
The advertising material on ZX81
The ZX81 emulators
List of subscribes to the ZX81 Italian Fan Club