I just came across this awesome ZX Spectrum emulator -- entirely Java based, embedded within the browser. It's remarkably accurate in it's graphics, sound, and even response; although try something like "The Empirse Strikes Back" and things get real slow, real quick. In general though the key presses are even the right timing for some of the game maneuverer's my muscles remember from 20 years ago! They also have emulators for Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube, PS2/3, and xbox, but really who cares? They have a Spectrum emulator!

The Spectrum with 48k (yep, "kB", not "Mb") of glorious memory, just hook it up to your TV, attach a cassette recorder, and you're off. This is what I cut my programming teeth on; this was my first taste of what would become a lifetime computing addition. The Hobbit became my first RPG; I became the Chuckie Egg king; The giant mansion of Jetset Willy held no secrets for me; Manic Miner wasn't so manic after I was done with him.

Appalling graphics compared to what's available today, and sound... well the less said the better. But addictive beyond belief. And fun. Yes, fun! Unfortunately the emulator doesn't have some of the more advanced games that came out later, so you can't seem the progression in the rendering of graphics and sound, from the early 2D Manic Miner, to the later 3D rendered games.

Of course it wasn't all fun and games. I learned to program in Basic, and machine code where Basic was just too slow. Hell, you could even 'hack' it -- PEEK and then POKE memory locations for infinite lives.

Anyway, check out the emulator -- Manic Miner (1983), and Chuckie Egg (1984) are great starting points. For Miner use "o" and "p" (left and right) and Space to jump. For Chuckie you'll need to define keys -- press "R" to redefine, and then "S" to start.