These Russian ZX Spectrum demos would’ve blown my ten-year-old self’s mind! In fact, they still do today!
The ZX Spectrum, a machine that started the home computing revolution, was launched in 1982. The machine was such a success that its creator, Clive Sinclair, was awarded a knighthood the following year.
I was given a ZX Spectrum for Christmas in the early 1980’s and I fell in love with the machine. With its Z80 8-bit processor running at just 3.5Mhz and 48k of memory, the little machine produced such memorable games.
As the years rolled by, the games improved but they couldn’t match the flash graphics and sounds of the latest 16-bit computers that were entering the market, such as the Amiga 500 and Atari ST.
In Russia however, the ZX Spectrum didn’t die off so quickly. Due to the communist regime, Western computers where near impossible to obtain.
However, in 1985, researchers finally reverse engineered the Z80 chip and soon affordable ZX Spectrum clones entered the market.
Due to the lack of copyright laws in Russia, the ZX Spectrum received all sorts of upgrades such as a 3½ inch floppy drive and even a CD-ROM drive.
The Russians soon started coding. Even after the ZX Spectrum had started to fade away in the UK, unofficial ports of games started to appear in Russia.
These games were technically impressive considering the ZX Spectrum’s limited hardware. Go online and you can find versions of Mortal Kombat, Worms and even the 3D first-person shooter Doom.
During the Amiga and Atari ST years, home coders used to create Demos. These programs involved colourful light shows and music to demonstrate a machine’s capabilities, as well as the skill of the coders as well.
Fast forward through the years and the Demo scene is still very active today with programs still being written for home computers and games consoles of all ages.
In August 2016 an event known as Chaos Construction took place in Russia. This showcased many different graphical and musical demonstrations all powered by the humble (although probably Russian upgraded) ZX Spectrum.
On the Chaos Construction site, you’ll find different categories, such as music only demos or programs confined to a certain amount of memory space.
For me, the most impressive of these programs is the ZX Spectrum 640K Demo. The competition rules state that the Demo must run on a 128k model Pentagon (A Russian ZX Spectrum Clone) and the 640k refers to the maximum size of the program stored on a floppy disk.
You have to remember that the ZX Spectrum is limited to a resolution of 256×192 pixels with a colour palette of just 16 colours.
They may not look like much to you youngsters today but for these are simply amazing and they would’ve blown my mind seeing them as a child as well.
I’ll leave you with the first and second winning entries.
ACROSS THE EDGE by deMarche
Break Space by thesuper
See the other competition entries over at Chaos Construction.
If you wish to read more about how the ZX Spectrum infiltrated Russia, I highly recommend this article from Kotaku.