Micro Makers: Early Homebrew Development on the ZX Spectrum (Microfabricants. Les débuts du développement ‘fait maison’ sur la ZX Spectrum) was an exhibition orginally commissioned by the History of Games Symposium, in Montreal, Canada. As part of their inaugural edition (June 2014), the exhibition focused on a very specific pieces of computer and gaming hardware from the UK called the ZX Spectrum; a unique micro-computer that thrived in 1980s. This exhibition examined the phenomenon of the Spectrum and it's cultural impact. A machine that was priced to be affordable by the average working class UK consumer, the Spectrum spawned an explosion of "homebrew" developers, hobbyists and enthusiasts. The games produced in this time period saw formal experimentation and a preoccupation with working class labour themes and issues. Working with UK Scholar Alison Gazzard (consultant), and drawing from the resources of the Universite de Montreal's Ludov game lab, I staged an exhibition that featured hobbyist magazines, original game cassette tapes, original hardware, a selection of emulated games, as well as fan made remakes, and contemporary homebrew made for the consoles. There have been many debates over the role of emulation in the archiving and exhibiting of vintage gaming technologies. In the case of this exhibition, it was necessary due to the localized nature of the Spectrum. Operational versions of the computer are very rare, and are also designed to operate only in the Europe, using the PAL video standard. In order to exhibit any of these works, emulation was a pragmatic decision as the fiscal and technological constraints to stage it by any other means, were great.
Part of the discursive mission of the exhibit was to illustrate that contemporary Indie videogame development, is not a new phenomenon, but rather a new articulation of a DIY ethos and practice that surfaces in all emergent media forms. The exhibition featured didact panels and a copy of the curatorial essay in both English and French, echoing the bilingual nature of the symposium. A revamped version of the exhibtion, will be opening at the Universite de Montreal in March 2016.
A copy of the original curatorial essay (EN), can be found here.
Works in the exhibition:
StarQuake. Steve Crow. 1985.
Ant Attack. Sandy White. 1983.
Skool Daze. David Reidy, Helen Reidy, Keith Warrington. 1984.
Jet Set Willy. Matthew Smith. 1984
Trashman. Malcolm Evans. 1984
Wanted: Monty Mole. Peter Harrup.1984
Deus Ex Machina. Mel Croucher. 1984
Knightlore. The Stamper Bros. 1984
Jet Set Willy. (« remake » Gameboy). Paul Taylor. 2001.
Flappy Bird Simulator. “Timmy” 2014.