Game on

We were all children once. We all had a favourite toy.

The nature of the childrens toy changed dramatically during the 1970’s and 1980’s, however, with video games machines competing with dolls, bikes and trainsets for the attention of children (and their parents wallets). Some of the earliest games consoles available for use at home included the Amstrad, Atari and ZX Spectrum. An example of all three of these reside in the collection at the Blackburn Museum and they probably bring back some evocative memories for many people.

It was a controller as well as the processor

The spectrum was a little console unit which would plug into a cassette player and would then feed into a normal television. While these machines may seem a little ancient to modern children they were the forefront of technology at the time and made games such as Pong and Pacman known around the world.

'Jet Set Willy' the popular sequel to Manic Miner

The above is a game for the Spectrum and was a sequel to the hugely popular ‘Manic Miner’. Other games for the Spectrum in the collection at the museum include Atic Atac, Gulpman (which is incredibly similar to Pacman), Planetoids and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon.

Here’s a set of examples you would need to follow to get a game started on the Spectrum:

  • Connect lead from ear socket on recorder to ear socket of Spectrum
  • Rewind tape to beginning
  • Set volume control
  • Type ‘LOAD’
  • Press key marked enter
  • Press play on your recorder
  • Game will now load

I am a little young to remember or have owned a Spectrum, Atari or Amstrad but recently reconnected my first console back to my television (a Snes for those of you interested) and had a great time playing the games. While many of these games seem simple, and take forever to load, there is a great amount of pleasure you can get from playing them again. You will also be surprised by how quickly you start to remember all the controls (there were never that many to remember anyway!).

Blu-Ray discs and downlaodable games?  Not for me, Long live the Cassette!


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Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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