Over the last few years, I’ve found myself working too much and throwing much of my early morning starts in my home office into firing up my work laptop instead of doing things that are important to me. Yesterday (18th June 2023) was Fathers’ Day in the UK, and as I was watching the latest Into the Vertical Blank video from the jolly nice Fulton brothers on YouTube, Jeff said something that resonated with me. While he was talking about the STOS VS Code extension, which of course I created, he said the following – and it struck a chord.
“There’s a community out there that’s kinda stagnant.”— Jeff Fulton, Into the Vertical Blank 2023
And he’s right!
A few years ago, Michael Keenleyside invited me to become an admin of the STOS Coders, and we also created this accompanying website. I think the last time anything was posted on the site was in April 2021 – that’s over two years ago, and it’s just not good enough!
So, it’s time to actually do something. It’s time to stop picking up the work laptop early in the morning, and it’s time to put the lid down when the working day has finished. It’s time to try and breathe some life back into STOS Coders and the STOS community in general, but how do we do that?
Well, we’re going to do our bit by creating a series of tutorials and hopefully some nice games as a result.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin!
We’re going to try to do our bit by creating a series of tutorials. When I say series, I mean a series – In the US, they would call them seasons. In each series, we will attempt to create a different game, and each episode will feature a topic relevant to that game. Will it be successful? Who knows – but we won’t find out until we try! We’ll continue until I get bored, or you get bored – whichever comes first.
What have I chosen to do?
I love retro computing! In fact, rather than spending my time playing on my Xbox Series X, or my daughters’ Nintendo Switch, I would rather spend the time messing about with my old hardware. I’ve still got my original Atari ST and a wonderful Sinclair ZX Spectrum +2A (the black model produced by Amstrad). Alongside those, I have a plethora of emulators on the PC and an Evercade wired into my main TV set.
Yep, I’m a retro computing nut, and I’m proud of it!
One of the best technology dramas/documentaries I have seen in recent years is Micro Men produced by the BBC. Although dramatised, it is factual and depicts a reasonably accurate story of the most successful home computing system to come out of the United Kingdom – the Sinclair ZX Spectrum.
Back in the day, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum took the UK by storm. Sure, there was the Commodore 64, but it was the Spectrum that created the bedroom coding cottage industry here in the UK. Lots of teenage bedroom coders made a considerable amount of cash sending their games off to the likes of Bug-Byte, Imagine, and Spectrum Games (later to become the mighty Ocean Software). It was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum that created some of the best home computer games coders, artists, and musicians that the world had seen, and many of them are still around today.
Yes, it all seems archaic in today’s modern world – but these guys were pushing boundaries and setting the precedent for the video games we play today. They made an impact, and that impact is once again gaining momentum as retro gaming takes hold.
And so, that is our chosen subject – the Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Over the next few series, we will be attempting to recreate some of the best ZX Spectrum games using STOS Basic. It’s probably not going to be easy, and we may fail or end up with something rubbish; but, we’ll crack on and see what we end up with.
I’ve decided to go totally old skool on these projects. When I say old skool, I mean that I will be using STOS Basic completely raw. So, say good-bye to Misty and The Missing Link, and be prepared for original out of the box STOS! Let’s see if we can create something great, and let’s see if raw STOS is up to the job of recreating ZX Spectrum games that look and run about the same.
We will be using my VS Code extension for STOS, which you can install from the Microsoft Marketplace.
We are going to make a number of assumptions during these tutorials:
- You have some understanding of programming techniques.
- You have some knowledge of the Atari ST and it’s quirks.
- You know what STOS Basic is.
- You have a functional STOS Basic environment, whether emulated on real hardware. If you don’t have a functional environment, Into the Vertical Blank has some excellent tutorials and downloads available for assisting you with the setup.
Before We Begin
It might be a good idea to learn a little bit about the ZX Spectrum itself. I’ve written a brief article here for you to get to grips with what we are dealing with.
So, if you are sitting comfortably, let’s begin…