It was 25 years ago last month that Clive Sinclair's home computer, the Spectrum was launched in the UK. Did I really pay £175 for a 48K Sinclair Spectrum all those years ago? I did indeed, and that system still works to this day, although the cassette recorders needed to load those classic (?) games, may have long since gone.
Sinclair's legacy is probably apparent in some of things it 'encouraged' programmers to do – for 'encouraged' read 'forced'. The games were an object lesson in how to compress data, and use the most efficient algorithms. Most of the better games usually consisted of little more than a massive amount of graphics data, pushed around your TV screen with control routines. You'll be glad to know (or maybe not)that some of these games can still be downloaded and played on your PC now, although they’re a far cry from, well - 'Far Cry'.
Having just 48Kb to write a game which would hold people's attention, brought out the best in those games programmers. Many of them would have a book of Z80 assembly language instructions and maybe even a copy of the Spectrum ROM disassembly. I did, and sometimes little good did it do me. Crashes when writing in assembler can be slightly different to those occurring with higher level languages like Pascal, which have run-time 'safety nets'. Add to this the debugging and hardware execution options available today and it could be said that programmers today are slightly cosseted. However, given the expectations users have of today’s applications, maybe programmers need all the help they can get. A quote from programming expert Scott Meyers from his books on producing more effective C++ code, sums it up neatly, “… too many programs can blame their sorry pace and bloated footprint on nothing more than bad design and slipshod programming.”
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