the Sinclair ZX Spectrum?
For many people this was their introduction to the joys of home computing before the days of 'real' PCs. We are talking early 1980s.

I had mine during the final year at University and quickly started writing games - initially for fun, later for real money. I also wrote my Masters dissertation on it using a very basic (but quite capable) word processing program.

The thing I loved about the Spectrum, was that when you threw the mains switch it was instantly 'on' - no boot time like you get with modern PCs, which still drives me up the wall. And with a nifty device called a Microdrive, you could load up software in a matter of seconds.
The most successful game I wrote was a strategy game (loosly based on the board game 'Risk') called 'Conquest' which I eventually sold to a company called CheetahSoft.

Here you can see the cassette format that it was sold in - in shops like WHSmith, or by mail order ...remember, no Internet back then - so no buying on-line!

To my amazement, the amount of money I was paid covered all the tuition fees for my Masters degree (with some to spare) - which was very handy, as Jersey (where I grew up) were not inclined to offer any grant or student loan for this second degree.

So there is a very soft spot in my heart for my old Spectrum and I never threw it away, although it is boxed up in my loft and hasn't been powered up for 25 years. In truth, I feared to plug it in after so long in case it just went 'pop' and that would be that!
Then in 2011, I was amazed to be contacted by a gentleman from the World of Spectrum website asking for permission for my game to be made available for free download.

He introduced me to the world of Spectrum emulation - yes, believe it or not, you can emulate the Spectrum on a PC with pretty much 100% accuracy and realism - even down to loading and saving from cassette tape if you want the ultimate retro experience!

For me, just wanting to see my old game running again, it was a matter of seconds to download an emulator, download my game in a format suitable for the emulator, and be playing... instantly transported back in time to my University room of nearly 30 years ago! Sigh!
Above you can see the title screen and a view after several rounds of play. My empire (in red, with a capital on Rome) has borders protected by lines of legions and forts - but is being hard-pressed by two computer-controlled empires (pink and yellow). I've also had to survive barbarian attacks, plagues, civil wars and assassination attempts to get to this point! Great fun and still very addictive even with the Noddy graphics.

Want to have a go yourself?

Its very easy - just follow these two steps:

1. Download a Spectrum emulator. ZXSpin is the one I used. But there are dozens more to choose from here.

2. Download the Conquest Instructions and Game and load them into the emulator.

Both steps take just a few seconds - and you are up and running!

If you want to know a bit more, check out this very readable book (pdf format).

If you want to download and play zillions of other Spectrum games, go here.