For those who first got into computing in the 80s, the term ‘bedroom programmer’ will hold special meaning – and the Museum of Computing in Swindon is looking to bring back those heady days of BASIC and FORTRAN with a very special event.
The microcomputing revolution of the 70s and 80s was largely driven by UK companies like Acorn and Sinclair, who brought increasingly cheap and nasty home computers to those who would never have been able to afford the equivalent ‘big-brand’ boxes. This, in turn, led to a price war – and an explosion in the number of so-called ‘bedroom programmers’.
These were almost always young men – although there were a few women on the scene – who badgered their parents into buying them a BBC B or a Sinclair Spectrum in order to sit inches away from a tiny portable TV hacking out lines of code in the languages of the day to create their very own games and programs.
Some of the biggest titles of the era were created in bedrooms across the country, such as the work of Apex Computer Productions – a grand title for brothers John and Steve Rowlands, who created classics including Creatures and Mayhem in Monsterland.
While there are developers keeping the dream alive today – such as Introversion Software, which describes itself as “the last of the bedroom programmers,” and 80s throwback Jeff Minter – the rising complexity of computer games has led to teams of hundreds and budgets of millions, pricing home coders out of the game.
The interest in developing for mobile devices, where the complexity is restricted by the hardware and user expectations, however, has led to a resurgence of interest – and for those newcomers to the world of bedroom programming, or nostalgia-ridden microcomputer coders looking to recapture a misspent youth hunched over a keyboard, the museum’s latest wheeze will hold serious temptation.
For a £6 admission charge, those taking part in the museum’s Bedroom Programming Challenge will be given the fuel – pizza and Coke – required to hack out a true 80s classic, with full guidance given for those lacking in programming experience. To fully recreate the days of ‘bedroom programming,’ the dress code is simple: pyjamas.
With the museum boasting an impressive collection of devices from the 80s, it promises to be a fun day out – although prospective visitors are asked to phone ahead on 07834 375628 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, as space is limited. The days will run on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of May.Leave a comment on this article