Serious Spectrum

edited September 2013 in Sinclair Miscellaneous
Has anyone here used their Spectrum for anything other than gaming and programming back in the eighties? I see all these business and productivity applications like word processors, spreadsheets, databases, math/statistics programs, etc. in the WOS archives and I was wondering how much serious and business use the Spectrum has seen back in the day.
Post edited by memrah on
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  • edited July 2013
    We did do some home database records on it for my Mum's budgie-breeding.
    Each bird was ringed, and by keeping track of its parentage we could try and predict pairings to give various colours, particularly albino and lutino (pure yellow).
    Though I think my mum preferred to stick to her own notes.
    Joefish
    - IONIAN-GAMES.com -
  • edited July 2013
    Not much of an answer but I found a handful of disarticulated 16k Spectrums and ZX81s (+ a dktronics keyboard) while clearing out an old university chemistry department. The original users were long gone but I like to think they played a part in research somehow*.

    If I could think of a way of crowbarring using a Spectrum into a modern day bit of research I would do it, imagine seeing that quoted in a science paper!

    *though maybe they were just fond of skiving and played Gulpman all day.
  • edited July 2013
    My dad used to use a +3 running Tasword +3 and an Amstrad 2160 DMP printer to do his angling copy for our local newspaper. Upgraded to an Amstrad PC1640 running Tasword PC2 so he could just submit the copy on a disk, and then a windows PC running MS Word.

    I knew people who used to run a business on a +3 running Masterfile and Tasword +3 also - the main computer was an Amstrad PC1512 with a 20Mb hard drive and a Citizen DMP. Good ol Wordperfect 5.1

    Ha! those were the days.....
    Oh bugger!<br>
  • edited July 2013
    We used a ZX Spectrum for a SCADA master in the mid 80's. For those who do not know a SCADA Master, it is a Master station that talks to remote units that controls something, for example all the machinery in a factory or plant. In our case we controlled the 11kV electrical network in a geographical area with the Spectrum. The remotes were Motorola Intrac units (Basket types) that were installed at the substations and we interfaced the Spectrum to the Intrac CIU with a Serial port. The CIU was then connected to the telecommunication system, which were in this case a UHF radio system which used FSK modulation. I still have the case which housed the Spectrum, but the software that we used are unfortunately lost.

    Pierre
  • edited July 2013
    Pierre wrote: »

    we controlled the 11kV electrical network in a geographical area with the Spectrum.

    Pierre

    Wow! This is really interesting. I would never have thought that a Spectrum would be used to handle such a serious, real-life task. What model was the Spectrum? Did you load the software from tape? disk? ROM cartridge? I assume it was on 24/7 and had some sort of UPS backup power too. How long was it in use for? Oh and what made you choose the Spectrum and not another system?
  • edited July 2013
    I recall a couple of Speccy's in my old college's basement which I helped sort through.

    (there was also a large number of BBC Micros and a few Amstrad PCWs)

    IIRC, they were all going to be scrapped. Wish I'd asked for a few.
  • edited July 2013
    memrah wrote: »
    Wow! This is really interesting. I would never have thought that a Spectrum would be used to handle such a serious, real-life task. What model was the Spectrum? Did you load the software from tape? disk? ROM cartridge? I assume it was on 24/7 and had some sort of UPS backup power too. How long was it in use for? Oh and what made you choose the Spectrum and not another system?

    Yes we ran it 24/7 and it monitored all the alarms, breaker indications, etc. We used it for a few years and it was a Issue 3 motherboard. I will take some pictures of the case and interface board tomorrow. We stored the software on an Interface one with a Microdrive. We basically used the Spectrum because the senior engineer at that stage liked the Spectrum and build many interfaces for it. His theory was that management will either approve a budget of R 1000 or a budget of R 1 000 000 and not anything in-between. As we could do the whole thing for R 1000, it was the simple choice. Our other systems for the bigger substations were master slave per substation (Telletra Tic 2P/2C and Selta). We only installed a decent Master station during 1987 for the bigger substations and a HP master system for the 11kV sites.
  • fogfog
    edited July 2013
    not a speccy , but rich (RWAP) showed me either a zx80 or 81 when he was displaying stuff in london ? that was used by a water company to do a calculation on something in the plant. I thought that was rather obscure.

    I'd imagine the BBC micro faired far better , partly due to the keyboard not being dead flesh like
  • edited July 2013
    We bought it for our homework...
    ...and the household accounts! :grin: :grin:

    Uses other than games and programming?
    I used mine as a doorstop for a while (NOT!) (C64 intruder alert! C64 intruder alert!) :grin: :grin:

    /bloodbaz gets his coat
  • edited July 2013
    Mate of mine used to produce the newsletter for the north staffs parents of diabetics for is mum using a +2 and microdrives and some dot matrix printer, I wrote a database programme for a local company in basic. I wouldn't know where to start there days!
  • edited July 2013
    Well Clive Sinclair did once say you could use a ZX81 to control a nuclear power station? Maybe before the problem with the wobbly RAMpack was discovered? They probably sold a load of those to Chernobyl and Fukushima (sp?).

    Then again Bill Gates apparently said noone would ever need more than 640K of memory when that's just a texture map these days ;)
  • LCDLCD
    edited July 2013
    Well Clive Sinclair did once say you could use a ZX81 to control a nuclear power station? Maybe before the problem with the wobbly RAMpack was discovered? They probably sold a load of those to Chernobyl and Fukushima (sp?).

    Then again Bill Gates apparently said noone would ever need more than 640K of memory when that's just a texture map these days ;)
    Chernobyl was a IBM PC infected with "Love Letter" and Fukushima was a "Tsunami 64K" and a attack of a Kaiju.
  • edited July 2013
    Beyond games and programming my Speccy would eventually be seen running Masterfile or The Last Word. I did lots of modelling with VU3D until I discovered it should be meant for mere fun.

    Can't remember of anything else now.
  • edited July 2013
    I wrote an operational manual for a firm that installed cavity wall insulation. It was required by the agency that they were a member of for BBA accreditation purposes.

    My Spectrum was a 48k with a D'Ktronics keyboard, Opus Discovery 1 and a printer (some 9 pin dot matrix). I did it all in TasWord Two, it took at least a month and all I was paid for it was the price of the Discovery - about ?100.
  • edited August 2013
    I used my Spectrums and Timexen in various presentations when I was in High School. The best received one was a work about Egypt. My cousin did all the coding and I added the text. Everyone else's presentations were boring. Mine involved pre-rendered wireframe 3D pyramids rotating several times, inside view of a pyramid with explanation of each detail and a picture of Tutankhamun which my cousin drew from scratch on Artist 2. Also had some Vangelis background music on my trustworthy tape recorder and occasional digitised speech coming out of the TC2048. Everything loaded from 3" disks. The students were impressed! :grin:

    My High School also had a project called "Minerva" which involved getting students used to computers. Each school had several Spectrums and Timexen with FDD3000s and some PCs too. All the software developed for that project was serious stuff (Math, History, Science, etc.). The only 3" with some of that software (that I know of) is on display at my former school. I plan to get it one of these days. :)

    I used to type all my school essays and various work using my +2 and print it using my Seikosha printer. Most people at the time were turning in handwritten projects... Guess my parents really bought it to help with homework. :lol:

    My cousin used to use his TC2048 only for serious stuff. Utilities, artificial intelligence, calculate distance to the location of a thunder based on various factors... only serious stuff, no games.

    Many people at the ZX81 forums have mentioned modifying their ZX81s for various serious applications. Some of the ones I recall: Controlling all the lighting at a movie theatre, controlling refrigeration equipment.

    Didn't our Polish friends use a Spectrum for some type of TV transmission as a form of protest? I read about it right here a few years ago.
  • edited August 2013
    Pierre, is it possible to preserve this software for our archive?
  • edited August 2013
    zxbruno wrote: »
    I used my Spectrums and Timexen in various presentations when I was in High School.

    How many did you have? :-o

    zxbruno wrote: »

    I used to type all my school essays and various work using my +2 and print it using my Seikosha printer. Most people at the time were turning in handwritten projects...

    I had a couple of weird teachers in high school. They wanted the papers handwritten because they said otherwise they had no way of knowing that I wrote them. This was in 1991 :D
  • edited August 2013
    Hi ghbearman

    I do not have the software anymore, but I still have the box, and interface card. I know we changed the printing routine in the ROM to print to a Centronics printer.

    I will take some pictures of the box and interface card
  • edited August 2013
    memrah wrote: »
    How many did you have? :-o

    Can't remember. Probably a dozen. :)

    I remember someone once mentioning ZX81s and nuclear power in the same sentence. :-o
  • edited August 2013
    I just remembered, one of my former colleagues also used the Spectrum for another project where the Spectrum was also used a SCADA master for the SELTA telemetry system. He did it for his thesis when he did his Masters and it should be well documented. He is retired now, but I will try to get hold of him today. It will take some pictures of the Spectrum that we used for the Intrac SACDA master today.
  • edited August 2013
    zxbruno wrote: »
    I remember someone once mentioning ZX81s and nuclear power in the same sentence. :-o

    That instantly reminded me of Star Wreck: "Chernobyl... where have I heard the name before... FUKOOOV! Don't touch the cooling systems!!"
  • edited August 2013
    A colleague at work once recounted to me how a friend of his had used a Speccy in some military environment (prototyping work for something to do with tanks, I think - the Speccy was used to control whatever it was). However, the details are sketchy and I can't confirm it.
  • edited August 2013
    That reminds me. I need to finish writing the simple VT display code for SE Basic IV / Spectranet so that you can use your virtual Spectrum as a proper terminal.
  • edited August 2013
    Pierre wrote: »
    I just remembered, one of my former colleagues also used the Spectrum for another project where the Spectrum was also used a SCADA master for the SELTA telemetry system. He did it for his thesis when he did his Masters and it should be well documented. He is retired now, but I will try to get hold of him today. It will take some pictures of the Spectrum that we used for the Intrac SACDA master today.

    Just some feedback. I managed to get hold of my former colleague and I was wrong, the Spectrum was actually used as a Selta Test set. The Selta system used a Master a Remote for each substation and his unit captured the data packets between the Master and Slave and analysed it. From this you could determine which bit was on or off and from there you could see it alarms were at the, analogue values, etc. You could also use the system to test the functions of the slave or master unit. He promised to look for a copy of the thesis and will let me know when I can come and pick it up.
  • edited August 2013
    memrah wrote: »
    Has anyone here used their Spectrum for anything other than gaming and programming back in the eighties? I see all these business and productivity applications like word processors, spreadsheets, databases, math/statistics programs, etc. in the WOS archives and I was wondering how much serious and business use the Spectrum has seen back in the day.

    Lately somebody mentioned Spectrums were in some PL universities in early 80s, making some calculations and so on.
    ZX81/ZX Spectrum/Amiga/Atari music: http://yerzmyey.i-demo.pl/
  • edited August 2013
    Most of you know I made a laserharp with a ZX Spectrum; will perform with that in october again at a retro computer fair.

    It is for real!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAHnIZ1oAro
  • edited August 2013
    maiki wrote: »
    A bit offtopic but apparently there are still C64s in "business" use in 2013!:

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.600418183336493.1073741827.173240806054235&type=1
    ...

    Indiana!!!??? Boozy practically lives on top of that bakery! He can probably be coaxed into going over there and spraypainting "Speccy 4eva!" on their walls :lol:
  • fogfog
    edited August 2013
    ZnorXman wrote: »
    Indiana!!!??? Boozy practically lives on top of that bakery! He can probably be coaxed into going over there and spraypainting "Speccy 4eva!" on their walls :lol:

    whats that bready McBread ? you sub contracting coz of your love of the bakery and you feel torn ...I saw it a month or 2 back.. as retro innovations do a few bits I want :) .

    RWAP will tell you he got a zx80 ? that was used in a water plant for calculations.

    it's the old thing of say someone who does word processing etc. having a rig thats *2-4 the cost of what they actually needs and a gaming rig :)
  • edited August 2013
    I don't think it was that long ago that I read on here, or perhaps a link from here, that there was some sort of archaeological software or something that was used with a theodolite (yes, my memory's a bit sketchy). It had a link to the authors website, it was a commercial Speccy program and I'm sure the site mentioned that it was used until quite recently.
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