Breffo Spider Podium, RC Mac & a ZX Spectrum... Geekfest!

Some new geekery today and what a fest it is...

First of all, the ability to remote control your Mac with nothing more than a web browser ; Mobile Safari on your iPhone (Other browsers are available - Ed) and some free-to-mess-about-with coding magic. HomeControl is the brain child of Brett Terpstra and like the man says:

If you’re handy with the jQuery, the PHP and the HTML, you can do a lot with the examples in the code. It’s very much a proof-of-concept, and intended to be a jumping point for more experimentation, so have at it.

If you've got a mac and you're into this sort of thing (ie: a true Nerd/Geek) then you can find out all Brett has to say on the subject, from here: A good man, and thorough.

Next up, a ZX Spectrum. It's like all my Christmases have come at once. OK, so maybe I'm ever-so slightly over egging it, perhaps it's like all my Christmases from the 1980's have come at once - that may be nearer the mark. So excuse me while I just drift back to 1982 and my little rubber-keyed wonder that got me into all this mess in the first place.

It's fair to say that if it wasn't for Sir Clive Sinclair (he of the goatee/beard mashup and scientific calculator) I wouldn't be sat here writing this now.  I'd probably be an accountant.... or in insurance....  who knows. Best not to dwell. Anyway, it's down to Sir Clive, because I and a few friends along with a Physics teacher got involved with one of these:

They were manufactured at the Timex plant in Dundee and our Physics teacher bought a kit version, which we assembled. The plus side to this was that we could then use it every lunch time, to learn how to program in BASIC. Of course in reality, one of our number had a copy of Sinclair Magazine (or was it Sinclair User?) and we would take it in turns to "Type in" the entire code for a game each day which we could then play until the lunch break was over.  Trouble was, thanks to the mind-boggling layout of the keyboard, it took most of the lunch break to type it in in the first place, and back then, storage was an external audio tape cassette that may or may not work... fun times!

Just as an aside, the Internet really is such an awe-inspiring place... without it, I never would have been able to share this with you:

SINK THE BISMARCK In true jingoistic fashion, Sink the Bismarck puts the player on a routine patrol of the North Sea. Out of the fog appears the Bismarck and by setting elevation and muzzle velocity of a gun, you can attempt to sink the ship.

Incredible to look at it now.  An arcade game in less than 1Kilobyte. What would the kids say? Beautiful.

But this was back in '81 when 1K and a black and white telly was all you could ever need... Who would have thought that just 12 months later when 1982 rolled around that we could have colour!, and 16K, or even 48K!!!. I mean..... In the parlance of our times; O.M. and dare I say it, G!

Up and down the land the 70's hippy types who knew what a punched card looked like, suddenly stopped and went...  "Ooooooow... that's more powerful than our Commodore Pet in the office" (kids, if you don't know what that is, look it up - I could be here forever otherwise, and you wouldn't want that) "and it's only 125 quid..."

In actual fact, £125 back in the thatcher years was quite a lot of money, but it was just about affordable. What this meant is a small crowd of bearded gentlemen (let's call them nerds), slunk off to their sheds or the back bedroom with this new found power, started coding and peeking and poking (sorry kids, more stuff for you to look up) and within a few weeks had best-selling video games to their names so should in theory of been raking in the money.

The closest we have to this today is the App store - and I'm sure there are some very intriguing parrallells to be drawn, meaning that it didn't quite work out that way.  There weren't hundreds of overnight millionaires, but one or two did quite well. A few of these gents got together and got a company going. In 1984, Richard Wilcox setup "Elite" and the rest... as they say... is history.  Well, actually it's a very interesting story if you're into to this sort of stuff (like wot I am), but the long and the short of it is that even though they were silent for 10 to 12 years through the 90's, somehow they survived. 

And then they met the mobile phone. And now we have this.....

And their latest release is a Sinclair ZX Spectrum emulator on the iPhone!!!!  Yayyy! and dare I say again OMG! etc, etc.  Go get it here: and look forward to going back to the 80's again and again.

And finally, All that rubber they harvested for the spectrum keybaords and never used has been put to good use.  I am now the proud owner of a Spider Podium...  It's not what you think, but it now means that I can listen to the theme music to "Chuckie Egg" (I won't tell you again kids - look it up) while I'm riding my bike - Could that be anymore annoying?

Needless to say, it is one of the most useful bit's of kit in the world, and of course not just for iPhones. You can use if to hold pretty much anything anywhere....

Have fun.


This post originally appeared here: Posterous


  1. Anonymous2:11 pm

    Thanks for putting up the shot of sink the bismarck!! Brings back childhood memories for me from the early-mid eighties :) I was fortunate enough to play this as a kid, spending hours entering code, only to lose it all when the power lead wobbled out. Kids today really have no idea how easy they've got it! I'm going to have to dig out that old code book now.... think it was called Bugs, Bytes and Ram... or somthing along those lines!


    A. Stroudie :)


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