Blog posted by Ste Pickford on Wed, 15 Oct 2014
Photos © Paul Drury
I had a great time last Saturday at the Play Expo event in Manchester, a vast metal shed packed full of free-play pinball machines and old arcade machines, retro computer games, brand new console games, stalls selling game-related tat, and loads of lovely video game fans.
I don't enjoy public speaking so I usually refuse invites to talk in front of an audience, but I couldn't resist when I was asked to help resurrect a 30 year old playground argument and join a panel to discuss which was best - the ZX Spectrum or the Commodore 64.
It was originally due to take place two years ago, but was cancelled at the last minute due to a power failure or something, so there was quite the build up for this.
I was on the Spectrum side of course, and joined the legendary John Gibson to argue our case. I'd never met John before and was both honored and humbled to be on stage alongside him. John was one of my absolute heroes, and playing the games he made for Imagine while I was a kid was a big part of what inspired me to get involved in making games myself. I was much more excited about meeting him than I was about doing the talk.
Putting the case for the C64 side were the legendary Jeff Minter, and the brilliant Andy Walker from Taskset.
I was definitely the most junior person there, and the only one who wasn't a programmer, so I felt doubly unworthy of being in such esteemed company.
The debate was a lot of fun, and the crowd were great. All four of us had a slightly different angle on what made each machine the best, and I think everyone made some good points. Jeff almost had me convinced to go over to his side at one point, but I was very pleased with my analogy: I compared the Spectrum to a blank sheet of paper in a sketchbook - you could draw a masterpiece of a crap scribble, it was up to you, the machine encouraged creativity and talent. By contrast I compared the C64 to a colouring book. You could only really draw what was laid out for you. Oh, and you only had 16 brown felt tips with really fat ends.
Thanks to Paul Drury for organising and hosting the talk, and taking these pictures. You can see from our faces how the result went. And what am I holding?