Sinclair ZX81 Documentation


A programming book is provided with the system: ZX81 Basic Programming by Steven Vickers. The cover is a very odd photo (montage?) of what appears to be a couple of model delta-wing jets on top of a solitary skyscraper at night.

Two red windows peer at you from the upper floors. It must be full of deep meaning which totally escapes me. Sinclair Research specially commissioned it. Can any psychologist readers tell us what it's all about, please?

The book is written for the novice, and it does a pretty reasonable job. It is infinitely better than the book given out with the ZX80. What a pity, then, that just as the reader is about to key something in for the first time, he encounters the most off-putting (and unnecessary) paragraph in the whole book: 'A message like this, telling the computer to do something straight away, is a command; this particular one is a PRINT command, but also a PRINT statement. Calling it a PRINT statement just specifies its form without referring to how the computer is going to use it. Thus every command takes the form of a statement, but so do some other things - program lines do, as we shall see in Chapter 8.'

The style of the book isn't really to my taste although Steven reveals a lot about himself with his talk of dead tax collectors and expressions like 'Lor', love a duck'. Eye fans will be delighted with his reference to Talbol? on page 88 (I find the question-mark rather becoming, don't you?). Oddly, error codes are referred to as report codes. Perhaps the idea of associating errors with the machine was just too abhorrent, even if they do happen anc~ even if they are usually the user's fault. Ho hum - more psychologist fodder. There are the usual typographical errors which didn't get cleared up but I couldn't find too many. The only other thing in the manual which actually troubled me was the reference to pounds, shillings and pence in one programming example. My kids (aged ten, eight and six months) didn't know what it was all about and, let's face it, a lot of these machines are going to be bought by, and for, kids.

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