Saturday, October 13, 2012

iSpeccy

Saturday, October 13, 2012
Anyone who owned a Spectrum back in the 80s will likely still cringe at the echoes of its shrill, piercing load tones. Strangely enough though, at the age of 7 I don't ever remember pausing to reflect on the purpose of those awful fax machine impersonations. I just accepted that's what it does, pressed play and scarpered before the aural assault commenced.

It wasn't until many years later I discovered the computer was actually interpreting the ones and zeros of programming language conveyed through modem-like pulses played at varying durations or widths. This allowed software to be encoded on cheap, ubiquitous audio tapes, or even to be transmitted over the airwaves. The thought of holding your Playstation up to the radio to load a game sounds ridiculous now, but back in the day this wasn't unheard of.

Similarly, those multicoloured, psychedelic flashing borders weren't arbitrary eye candy; precise colour combinations and line widths represent the type of data currently being loaded. That said, this feature of the system was later manipulated simply for visual effect.

I don't imagine there are that many people out there who own a real live, hardware Spectrum and an iPhone, but for those of you who do, you can now serenade one wit' t'other, substituting the phone for a tape drive to transmit those nails-on-a-blackboard screeches.

The Speccy Tape app latches onto World of Spectrum's tape image database allowing you to search out any game and play it on your original hardware in a few clicks. You could even use it to play games that didn't exist way back when because they've only just been released. You heard that right, people are still coding new games for a platform that was born in 1982!

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