The Sinclair ZX81: 30 years old today

Sinclair ZX81Yes, according to Wikipedia, Sinclair Research’s second most successful computer (if we don’t count revisions of the ZX Spectrum as separate “computers”) was released on March 5, 1981. Exactly 30 years ago today.

For more about the ZX81 and the history behind it, I direct you to this excellent post, Sinclair ZX81: 30 years old tomorrow (written, as you can guess, yesterday). Spot the ad for the 16KB “massive add-on memory” expansion. 🙂 And now for some more personal history after the break…

Continue reading The Sinclair ZX81: 30 years old today

Now reading: Steve Englehart’s “West Coast Avengers” run

I’ve read a lot of Englehart’s Marvel stuff in the past, including, of course, his runs on Avengers and Defenders, but this is my first time reading this:

West Coast Avengers #1 West Coast Avengers #2

Loving it so far; it’s far more “crazy” than most superhero group books (though it’s not really a “humor” book the likes of Giffen and DeMatteis’ JLA), and both the characters and their characterization are great; it’s the first time I found the Grim Reaper (Wonder Man’s brother) interesting; I always groaned every time I saw him on a cover, since, to me, he was a boring villain with boring powers ((he was a normal human who carried a technologically advanced weapon in the form of a scythe — thus the name –, which had powers as the plot required and therefore he would always defeat all the Avengers single-handedly, until the last page or so where something would conspire to defeat him)) and a boring motivation ((“you let my brother die! no, wait, you defiled my brother’s memory by having an android around with his brain patterns! no, wait, my brother is back, but he’s not exactly like my mental image of him, therefore it’s not really him and you’re mocking his memory again! no, wait…”))). It also seems to be subtly much more “mature” than most mainstream comics of its era; in fact, I’m surprised that Marvel let Englehart do all he did just in the first 5 or so issues (one word: Tigra). According to Englehart, there was indeed editorial interference (including rewriting his dialogue), but that was at the end of his run (and a good reason as any other to leave a book, I guess), which is still more than 30 issues from now.

Anyway, highly recommended; it’s the kind of “laid back” comics you don’t see these days (where everything must be deadly serious! The end of the world! A crisis!)

The Lord of the Rings Online with DirectX11

The Lord of the Rings Online with DirectX11Looks good, doesn’t it? And yes, go ahead and click on the image above to see it in full size. After that, your browser will probably scale it to fit in its window, so click on it again to see it as nature intended. 🙂 The thumbnail doesn’t do it justice, of course.

For the curious, this is on an Intel Core i7-860 with an Nvidia GeForce 470, with DirectX11 enabled, and with all details options set at maximum, except, IIRC, the shadows, which, as good as they are above, can even be made to look better. And, yes, the game runs at about 60 fps on average with these settings.

As a comparison, here is Doomdark’s Revenge, a 1985 strategy/RPG on the humble 48K ZX Spectrum:

Doomdark's RevengeYou could turn the screen in 8 directions (while in LOTRO, of course, you can turn around smoothly in every direction, move the camera, etc.), and it took about 1 second to redraw the screen. Which is perfectly fine for a non-real time strategy/RPG, of course.

Incidentally, my character’s name on the first game (which you can read in the screenshot) comes from the second game. 🙂

P.S. – The Lord of the Rings Online is free to play these days (though some features may eventually require the spending of real money). Just register on or, depending on where you are. I’m on the latter, on the Withywindle server. For more info on the game, I suggest its TV Tropes page.

ZX80 programming? Man, I feel young again. :)

Between yesterday and today, I took part in a thread in the comp.sys.sinclair newsgroup.

Yes, a newsgroup. Some of you may even remember what those are. 🙂

And the thread was about programming. In BASIC. On the ZX80. A computer from when I was 6 years old, and which I’ve never even had in my possession (though I had a ZX81 clone, the Timex Sinclair 1500, when I was about 9 or 10).

LotR, Sauron, and “evil cannot comprehend good”

So, yesterday I was reading through TV Tropes (probably the biggest time sink on the Internet — I love it. 🙂 ), when, in the Lord of the Rings (hmm, haven’t read that in a while… note to self…) entry, there was this:

Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The whole plan hinges on the fact that Sauron can’t even conceive of someone trying to destroy the Ring and get rid of that kind of power.

  • In all fairness, he was right. At the moment of truth, instead of throwing the One Ring into Mount Doom, Frodo claimed it for his own. The Ring was only destroyed when Gollum tried to steal it back, succeeded, and fell into the lava still clutching his “preciousssss”.

Mount DoomI may edit the page on TV Tropes later, but as that’s not the place for a discussion (you’re supposed to edit mistakes out, not reply to them, unless both points deserve being made), I wanted to comment on that here. What do you (right, as if I have readers a couple of hours after creating the blog…) think about the reply (the part that begins with “In all fairness”)?

Me, I disagree. I think that Sauron was “wrong” about the question referred to by the trope; the trick here is to understand what the actual question really is. Think about it. Sauron’s belief wasn’t that nobody could, at the end, do the final step to destroy the Ring. Nope. Instead, Sauron couldn’t even imagine that someone could even want to destroy the Ring. That someone would ever try — renouncing, thus, the greatest source of power in the world.

That’s why Sauron didn’t assign a single orc to guard Mount Doom — the thought that someone would even try to destroy the Ring instead of using it never even entered his mind until Frodo succumbed to the Ring and wore it inside Mount Doom. Sauron’s thought then wasn’t “they got that far?”, but instead “they’re trying to do what?”.

Sauron wasn’t afraid that they’d destroy the Ring, since that possibility never even entered his mind. His fear — and that’s why he rushed the entire War of the Ring — was that, at any time, a Galadriel, or an Elrond, or a Gandalf or a Saruman would show up at his doorstep, wearing the Ring, and with an army behind them. Yes, it would still suck for the entire world (there would simply be a new Dark Lord, as bad as Sauron), but do you think Sauron cared about that?

So, the trope is correctly applied; it’s the reply that misses its point. Something to edit later…

Geeks in the US as opposed to Portugal

I mentioned in the previous post that one of the reasons I created a new blog for posting about “geeky” subjects was that the otherwise most appropriate possibility was my personal blog, which is in Portuguese, and I wanted these posts to be in English. But why is that, you may ask?

There’s a funny difference between “geekdom” in my native country, Portugal, and the USA. In America, being a geek is associated with stuff such as science fiction (especially, but not only, Star Trek and Star Wars), fantasy, role-playing games (RPGs), board games, video games, and so on. All that in addition to technology and computers.

In Portugal? A typical “geek” is interested in technology and computers. That’s it.

Considering that all of the above are among my interests, you can see how I have much more in common with American geeks than with Portuguese ones. It’s not that there aren’t people in Portugal interested in Trek, Tolkien, D&D or strategy games with 200-page manuals, but they are comparatively very rare… and they’ll all understand English perfectly, anyway. 🙂 So, as I wanted to reach the largest possible audience… English it is.

Welcome to Winterdrake!

This blog (created March 3, 2011) will feature, for now, my ramblings and musings on several geek-related subjects: video games, movies, novels, comic books and so on. Yes, I already have a personal blog where I could do that, however 1) that one’s in Portuguese (my native tongue), and I wanted to do this in English, and 2) I really think a new blog about these subjects makes more sense. Besides, I may add some co-writers in the future, which would never be possible in a personal blog.

So… enjoy. 🙂 The “about” pages will be created later, and I want to customize the theme a bit (I’ll probably keep this one, but with a more appropriate picture on the top). As for a “real” post, it’ll come very, very soon…

As for the name, well, I needed ideas, so I used (shameless self-promotion) my Fantasy Name Generator, with the “fantasy surnames” option, and ran it several times until I found a nice-sounding one. The suggestion I most liked was actually “winterdragon“, but that one wasn’t available, so… 🙂