Printing Xmas Tags Like It Was 1983

Yesterday this tweet appeared on my Twitter timeline

Now, being the geeky retro Sinclair fanboy I am, I read it, understood it, and retweeted it.  Obviously.

(In case the attachment doesn’t show, click here it is in its full technimonocolour glory)

It’s a page from the November edition of Sinclair User, and has a simple program for a ZX81 to print out Xmas gift tags.  It made me wonder just how many people back in the early 80’s would have gone through all that trouble ( and expensive thermal paper!) just to make tags.  And, 31 years later, surely nobody would go to all that trouble either.  It seemed so simple it got me wondering if I could (or even should) give it a go myself.

On the face of it, the hardware requirements were very simple (and all in my possession).  The program itself was very very simple.  So, how hard could it be?  So, this afternoon, I set about recreating all the pre-Christmas excitement of 1983

Two and a half hours later this happened;

Admittedly that two and a half hours included a bit of time checking which of my two ZX81 worked (neither fully – combined; 1) and digging around for a transistor to do the ‘composite mod‘ for a decent TV picture.  Most of the rest of that time was spent drawing grid lines on a print out of that listing to see which 2×2 graphic characters were used where in the image or searching around the keyboard for the right combination of keys to get the appropriate keywords or graphics to show up.  Believe me, navigating the ZX81 keyboard is no trivial thing!  But suffice to say, using a ZX81 to mass produce your Xmas tags probably wasn’t the best use of your time in 1983, and certainly isn’t now!

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I don’t know if Jonathan Court of Poole, Dorset is still developing ZX81 software, but, if he is, and he finds this blog post, I would like to thank both him and Your Sinclair for saving me the cost of actually buying Christmas gift tags this year :-)

And thanks also to Your Sinclair RnRY for tweeting the article and AnnaBeep for bringing it to my attention.

Also… if you’re looking to buy some snazzy Xmas gift tags this year, well, you know where to come!