Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Great C90 Tape Swindle

It was larceny. Well, more likely fraud. Or maybe it was just a very broke school child with a cunning plan that involved some type-in games listings, a biro and some blank tapes C90 audio tapes.

Let me explain.

It was 1984 and I was desperate to get rid of my Sinclair ZX81 (if you’re in the USA you probably knew it as a Timex brand computer). The computer, which had amazed me just a year earlier, was now nothing but an embarrassment. I didn’t even have a working tape recorder to load games with (nor could I afford the games). If I wanted some computer gaming fun, it meant sitting down with a type-in programme, and slavishly copying the sacred text from the book to the computer, like some medieval monk who was desperate to play Space Invaders. Not fun. Not a cherished retro memory.

I tried selling the ZX81 through various news agents’ window advert, but nobody wanted my little black Sinclair doorstop. And in those days I really did need the money, as my pocket money wasn’t enough to buy games for my ‘new’ Vic 20 (and I was too young to get a Saturday job).

But how to sell an obsolete computer with no games?

A few weeks later at school, the class soap dodger (let’s call him...actually best leave it at Soap Dodger) got wind that I wanted to sell my ZX81. Got many games? He asked. Oh yer – stacks, I lied. And so, holding my nose, I arranged for him to come around at the weekend, half realising he probably just wanted come around and play at my house.

That Saturday I got up early, and typed in the best game listing I could find. That was part one of my plan. Part two was to connect the broken tape recorder to the computer to make it look like I’d just loaded it in to the ZX81. And part three – the really cunning bit – was to get a pile of cheap blank tapes and write fake game names on them. Generic names like Space Trek, Munch Mate and Road Hopper. You get the idea. And so I piled the tapes with the ‘games’ on by the computer.

Soap dodger arrived.

Soap dodger played the great game I had just ‘loaded’.

Soap dodger was impressed by the 20 or so games that came with the computer.

I had a sale. Oh joyful day.

But of course it came at a price. A few days later Soap Dodger came up to me in the playground and seemed upset. Apparently none of the ‘games’ would load. I offered some excuses. Perhaps the tape head needed adjusting? Perhaps he needed to tighten the tapes? Maybe the tape leads were loose?

With excuses like these I could have saved the iPhone 4’s reputation.

Sorry Soap Dodger, I did you wrong.


At 12 August 2010 at 12:14 , Blogger Marc said...

You are a very bad person, sir. You should make amends by donating a ZX81 to someone who smells a little. Like me, perhaps. ;)

Interesting idea for a blog. I'm really looking forward to your future posts.


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