Archive for November, 2014

Geek Out! An Oxford retrogaming event (and an appeal for Spectrums)

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Calling all Oxford people who have ZX Spectrums portable TVs! And ZX Spectrum people who want to come to Oxford!

Fancy making a bit of computing history this December?

On Saturday 6th of December, The Museum of the History of Science will be hosting “Geek Out!“, a day of retro-gaming with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum and the BBC Micro. And I’m helping to run the Spectrum bit! The museum’s Basement Gallery will be taken over by Spectrums set up with classic games for you to rediscover (or for you young ‘uns to discover for the first time). And then in the afternoon, we’ll attempt a 32-year-old challenge that’s never been done before…

Chapter 19 of the Spectrum BASIC programming manual introduced the BEEP statement, with an example program that played a few bars of Mahler’s first symphony. In the ‘exercises’ section at the end of the chapter, the author left a cheeky assignment for the reader: program the computer to play the rest of Mahler’s first symphony.

We’re going to take on that challenge, not just on one computer, but linked together to form a Spectrum orchestra.

The snag is… I need your help to gather together A Large Quantity Of Spectrums. If you have a Spectrum lurking in your attic, or a huge collection of them taking pride of place in your bedroom, I’d love to hear from you. We’ll also need enough TVs (or monitors with a composite video input) to go round – so if you have a TV set that’s portable enough to bring into central Oxford, that would be excellent too. If you can help out, please email me at The event will run from 10am to 5pm, but if you can only make it for part of the day, that’s no problem… the more, the merrier. (For people sticking around for longer, I dare say beer and/or curry will be happening in the evening…)

Update 2014-11-29: One week to go! Huge thanks to everyone who’s been in touch with offers of hardware. We’re well-equipped with Spectrums now, but a couple more televisions would really help the event go smoothly. Also, joysticks (with the Atari-standard 9-pin D connector) would come in very handy!

Don’t have any hardware to bring? No worries. Come along and in some retro-gaming action, while admiring the museum’s impressive collection of gadgets and gizmos through the ages!