Great Moments in Computing

Compiled by Stephen Smith - but I must admit to copying a lot of it from comp.sys.sinclair! Mine are the sarky comments as well.


This is basically for all those people who like to reminisce about all the great things that happened during the "Golden Age" of computing (the 80's), that can be laughed and joked about now, but probably weren't actually that funny at the time. The days when we all used tape recorders, loading a program was a five-minute nail-biting wait, and playability was everything (graphics were those small UDG`s). These moments are things that we all remember happening, principaly because the happened to all of us. There is something saitisfying about knowing that all these moments occurred to all of us. By reading a few of the entries you will see what I mean.

This is not just restricted to mere moments or error messages, although the latter is what made up a bulk of the replies. If you have any anecdotes, quotes, or can think of an aspect of any game or computer situation that is worth a mentioning that people can relate to, then feel free to post it. Also, if you have any comments on any existing ones, please do just that.

This document is generally restricted to Spectrum computing, but anything will be considered if mainstream enough for us users to relate to. Any and all comments on any part of this document is greatly appreciated. If anybody draws some good ascii graphics that I can add to the top of this doc then that would be great (mate).

If you do have any Golden moments that you would like to add, then as well as posting them directly to me at, feel free to post them straight to the newsgroup comp.sys.sinclair, from where I can also pick them up and use them. Probably the best option is to post them to both me and the newsgroup, so as to guarantee that they are be used.

I am having a bit of a dilemma as to how I should organise the list. At the moment they are divided into groups like `error messages` and `programs` etc... Is this preferable to simply having one long list with the different types all jumbled up? I don`t know. Maybe you can help me. Anyway, enough idle banter. Here it is...




R Tape Loading Error (0:1)

The all-time classic. There was nothing better than waiting about 5 minutes for a game to load, only to come back to it and see this message waiting for you on the screen. Probably the most famous error message (since it was the most bloody common) it could mean anything from "Your tape is knackered" to "Your tape machine is knackered." All you could do was to keep re-trying, and in true Sinclair tradition, it eventually worked. Sometimes.


How about the Opus disk error
(c) David Corney, 1983,84, 0:1
(Philip M Reynolds)


POKE 23610,28 gets you:
(c) 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd, 0:1
(John Elliott)


Silly (BBC Micro). Let us not forget Mistake (BBC/Acorn, all models) and This is not a language (BBC Master).
(Mike Cowgill, I think)


Dont be a Wally!, 0:1 (With Opus disk drive)
(Jeroen Kwast)


D BREAK - CONT repeats, 10:6
C Nonsense in BASIC, 0:1

Eh?! :)
...or something like that - it's been a while!

It occurs to me that this is a particularly good one. After all, you wouldn't expect C source to make any sense in Basic. :-) Right. Out of curiosity I fed some converted Basic stuff through my Turbo C V2.0 compiler and it reported:
line 1: Basic nonsense in C
(Hans - Lying I think)


Keyboard failure. Press F1 to continue (Any IBM PC compatible)
(Mike Cowgill)
Just goes to show that things haven`t improved in 13 years.


Hello there, I'm a +3 ...On a +2A.

And also:

BTW: some great moments in (Unix) computing:
? (ed)
and everyone's favourite:
savecore: reboot after panic: clget: pagedaemon needs > 1 cl handle!!
(Thanks to Nick Dixon for that. I think the NHS lunatic asylums need more cash :-) )



Stop the Express (Sinclair Research)

YOU FINISHED THAT BLOODY GAME?!?!? I jumped and ducked and weaved and snuck through the bad guys, almost to the point where I could do it with my eyes closed - my fingers could do the sequence by themselves (three steps - duck - five steps - duck for the bullet etc etc etc...) for months on end... Actually, I don't remember if I actually did finish the game - I think I got past the second part where you are inside the train, going to the right, and reached the end of the train - was that the end? I seem to remember you just start over after that with tougher bad guys...


Chaos - Battle of the Wizards (Julian Gollop, Games Workshop)
How about those eight player games of Chaos where you got killed by a Magic Bolt spell in the first round? Even if you were playing against computer opponents, you had to wait for the game to finish, which took about half an hour! :-(
(Matt Barber)


Jet Set Willy (Matthew Smith, Software Projects)
I can remember that famous bug in Jet Set Willy where, if you fell off the bottom of certain screens, you would appear at the top of the one below. If you then died by falling too far, you would continually re-appear at the top of the screen, thus dying again and again, until it was game over! Great or what, especially after spending several hours collecting around 150 objects. It had me rolling on the floor, smashing my Spectrum against the wall...
(Stephen Smith)

IIRC that wasn't a bug, as it still happened in JSW II.

Maybe not a bug, but a pain in the bum. =)
(Stephen Smith - I had to get the last word in.)


The Hobbit (Melbourne House)
'You see some pale bulbous eyes staring at you...'

'Something drops down behind you...'re dead, you scored s**t-all again!'
(and two turns previously you were well on your way to completing it =(.
'The vicious goblin cleaves your skull...'re dead, you scored 0.00004567%!'

You obviously had the early, rude, floating-point version ;-)

Surely the most annoying messages are:
- THE PLACE IS TOO FULL FOR YOU TO ENTER (apols for the capitals, but that's how it comes up!)
- Thorin takes the small curious key (And he calls me a thief!)

but worst of all:
You see: the goblin. The goblin captures you. (scroll, scroll) You are in the goblins dungeon. (Now wait 10 minutes for that f***ing picture to be drawn again!!)

Best location: Getting out of the barrel too early in the middle of the fast river. You can't go anywhere or do anything. This is especially good when Gandalf comes along to tell you what a great job you're doing....


Tornado Low Level (Costa Paniya, Vortex) - STOP THE TAPE!
Not just TLL, but any game where you had to stop the tape halfway through to get some sort of message or warning. How many times did you start it loading, leave the computer, and come back 5 minutes later to see it flashing "Stop the Tape". Your tape recorder, meanwhile, had just clicked off because it had just reached the end. Too many times, eh folks?
(Stephen Smith)

No. 6

Daley Thompsons Decathlon (Chris Uquahart, Ocean)
...And all the other programs where you had two either press two keys on the keyboard left/right simultaneously, or (the more popular) waggle your joystick from left to right until it either snapped or you got cramp in your hand. This really was one guaranteed way of knackering your keyboard/joystick and give you RSI in less than two minutes.
(Stephen Smith)


3D Ant Attack (Sandy White, Quicksilva)
The hi-score table in this game has really gone down in the annals of history as the worst their ever was. It was like a drug-induce psychadelic nightmare. And whatever happened to hi- score tables?
(Stephen Smith)

No. 8

My great moment has to be the tape (audio) that came with the original Everyone's a Wally.
(RI Hills)

Didn`t Deus Ex Machina come with an audio tape as well? And Carrier Command? What does it all mean?



20 GOTO 10
Didn't ALL books like "First Steps with your Spectrum" (and the million-and-one others like it) ALWAYS have this as the first program to try out? Or was it just me? Oh, I see.
(Stephen Smith)


(John Elliott)

Says it all really, doesn`t it? I have actually tried this on my Z80 emulator. It won`t accept the first line. Am I being thick or what?
(Stephen Smith)

No, it only works on a +2A/+3
(A friendly neighbour)


10 PRINT '"Program: Bruce Lee"
30 GOTO 20
(Agust Arni Jonsson)
Had the kids hanging in the store for half hour in front of the Speccy before some bright kid noticed there wasn't a tape in the tape recorder...


This was a good 'un, too: Go into Boots (where the computer sales staff's ignorance of computers was legendary), find a Speccy with it's sound wired up to a TV/Monitor (ones with the controls hidden behind a flap were the best), then give it...

10 CLS:PRINT AT 15,1;"Do NOT press the SPACE BAR..."
20 IF INKEY$<>" " THEN GOTO 20
Turn the volume up to 11, then go and lurk in the photo processing department until the schoolkids turn up... A classic test of basic human psychology, that one. I don't know what was funnier, the looks of shocked innocence on the kid's faces or the manic fumbling of the sales assistant as she tried desperately to silence the bloody thing. She'd invariably end up calling some Junior Manager, who'd finally resort to the ultimate weapon - pull the mains plug out.



"I think that's why Sinclair put a rubber keyboard on it. For when you throw it at the wall :-)"
(Mike Dolan)



48k Basic - Having to go through the tortuous task of pressing caps-shift & symbol shift, and then caps-shift again, followed by the letter with the keyword written in green above it. (Cue hundreds of letters telling me the greens were at the bottom and reds at the top. I admit, I can`t remember.) Thank God for 128k Basic, eh lads?
(Stephen Smith)

And finally:

Great moments in computing...

"Mel Croucher!"

Not forgetting Sir Clive himself, of course.

And is that not a perfect note to finish on? Yes.

Ah, those were the days. I really miss the '80s.
- Kev


Written by Stephen Smith.

Stephen Smith -