Design-Build-Run
By Dave Ingram

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How I Got Started

DIM AVIDIt was way back in 1982 and I was around 14 years old. High street shops, such as WH Smiths, had racks of home computers including the Sinclair ZX81, the Sinclair Spectrum and the Oric Atmos to name but a few that are very dear to my heart. Above the computers there was a row of nice old black-and-white TVs that displayed the computer output. You'd often see that people had put their names or messages up on the screen such as "Hi, this is John". In awe, I too wanted my name up on the screen for all to see. How cool would that be? Something to impress the girls with...

Anyways, I started typing into a Sinclair ZX81 – D, A, V, I, D. When finished, I looked up at the screen expecting to see my name displayed and to clearly start showing off at my name "up in lights". Look, look I thought. However, what I saw was not too dissimilar to the image shown. The words "DIM AVID". You can probably imagine the total ribbing and fun poking I got from my mates "Ha Ha! You're Dim David" and so on. Jeez, what was meant to be a star moment turned out to be a total embarrassment and failure. I tried again and again, and again - same thing "DIM AVID". I don't know why but something inside me just said "I really must find out why this is happening"...

I raced home on my Raleigh Chopper Sprint and all excited I asked my Dad if I could have a computer for my birthday and/or Christmas. Given that we were pretty poor and that I'd been in a bit of trouble, I suppose I expected the answer to be no, but I thought I'd ask anyway. That was me. I managed to swing a morning paper-round at Knight's Newsagents where my brother had a paper-round. I think I only got the round because of him vouching for me. I also managed to get an evening round delivering the free local rag. After I don't know how many weeks of saving, I finally had the enormous sum of £49.99 (if memory serves) to buy my very first home computer - a shiny new 1k Sinclair ZX81...

I learnt two very important lessons from this exercise. The first - if you really want something that bad, you'll find a way to make it happen. The second – I actually learnt how to program in BASIC and to understand and resolve my most perplexing "DIM AVID" problem...

Here was the thing - the Sinclair ZX81 had a "keyword mode". The cursor was an inverse video 'K'. Most keys on the keybaord had a keyword associated with them - 'P' for PRINT and of course 'D' for DIM. When a key was pressed the computer would display the keyword followed by a space to make things nice, hence "DIM AVID" was displayed when I typed D, A, V, I, D.

From then on, I was totally hooked on programming and the rest is history as they say.
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