On the ZX Spectum’s 36th birthday we chat to the writer of Hey Hey 16k

The ZX Spectrum and B3ta has a entwined history – an animation we made for the song Hey Hey 16k by MJ Hibbett was an early viral hit in ooh May 2004.

Today this song popped into our mind on learning that old rubber-keyed bastards was launched 36 years ago on the 23rd April 1982.

36 years. Wow.

A machine that changed the lives of a generation – it was cheap and it was fun and directly lead to a generation of coders who still fiddle on sites like B3ta and beyond.

Our animation was launched to a pre-YouTube world of flash videos, after we spotted the song in the NTK newsletter and figured it might do well if paired with some ZX Spectrum footage.

Six hours of work later here it was.

(Embeded Youtube as the old flash version might not work on your modern browser or phone.)

Anyway – we figured rather than just embed a video we’d ring up MJ and get a few quotes:

Earliest Spectrum memory?

When we first got one, Christmas day 1982, family legend has it I was so happy I fainted.

What games did you get?

We only had the tape that came with it. Something called ‘foxes and rabbits’ – which demonstrated through stats that foxes died if they got too fat from eating rabbits and vice versa.

My brother got Horace Goes Skiing – it was rubbish, but he didn’t think it was rubbish but he was biased.

Tell us about the writing of the song?

Wow, this was over 20 years ago and I remember thinking that my idea of the 1980s was becoming a forgotten period of history, that my idea of the 1980s was being erased.

It was all New Romantics and city boys and I wanted to reclaim the 1980s for people like me.

I didn’t think that many people remembered it. But it was amazing when Dave Green started doing t-shirts – over 30 people bought them.

30 people remembered the 80s like I did, and when B3ta did the video it went mental.

The more personal the subject you write about then the more people will like it.

Although this is not always true.

Write about gravel and no one cares.

But emotional memoroies like this do resonate.

So what experiences did you have from the song becoming an internet ‘hit’

When video came out for the first couple of days it was the 5th biggest thing on whole internet.

The other four things about the Afghanistan invasion.

Not as popular as war, but still good.

We also got to play a retro-gaming convention. We rehearsed it and played properly and did it as our opening number and everyone jumped on tables and screamed.

But then they sat stoney faced through the next six songs which weren’t about old computers so we played the song again and they jumped on the tables again.

Then then got treated like big massive rock stars – it was amazing experience.

So the ZX Spectrum 36 years old today….

Well that can’t be right – I must have be minus 10 years old when it came out.

Actually, now that my generation has passed into middle age and what we care about is no longer the focus of popular culture, the ZX Spectrum is in danger of being forgotten again as another generation has other ideas of what they want to celebrate.

It’s a great British success story we should never forget.

AND WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO UNCLE CLIVE IF YOU HAD HIS PHONE NUMBER?

Thank you.

And thank you Mark for chatting to us – and if you want more Spectrum fun we advise you head over to the Internet Archive were over 9,000 titles are available to play inside the browser.

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