This month’s Custom PC magazine is a rather special issue: it’s the only place you’ll find a step-by-step photographic feature on how to build Sinclair Computer’s ZX81 kit outside a time-travelling newsagent with good stock of 1981-era magazines.
Having purchased a ZX81 kit from a rapidly-dwindling stock, I knew that I would be building it rather than keeping it unassembled and its purpose in life unfulfilled. I also knew that I’d be trying my damnedest to get a magazine to pick up the story, for the simple reason that there aren’t many of these things left and I wanted as many people to enjoy a little glimpse of history as possible. Thankfully, Custom PC editor Ben Hardwidge agreed – and even put the feature on the top bar of this month’s cover.
The build was an interesting look back at how the face of computing has changed: while Sinclair’s kits required the user to know which end of a soldering iron was safe to hold, modern computing – for all its exponential increase in complexity and power – is relatively simple, requiring little more knowledge than required to put the square peg in the square hole.
It was also a chance for me to exercise my photojournalistic skills, rather than just my writing skills. Using my somewhat outdated Pentax digital SLR, a light tent, two halogen lights and a table-mounted stand, I was able to snap some surprisingly detailed photos using nothing more than the standard 18-55mm kit lens. These photos illustrate every single step, and the art department has done a great job on the layout of the feature.
As well as the exclusive ZX81 build, which has generated considerable interest, this month’s magazine includes my usual Mobile Tech Watch column. This month, I looked at the difference between the x86 and ARM instruction set architectures, and why Intel is going to have its work cut out to compete with ARM in the mobile space.
Finally, this issue includes my review of the Arduino Leonardo, kindly provided by Oomlout. Is it worth the upgrade from the Uno, and are there any downsides to the new single-chip approach taken by the Arduino team in its design? Better pick up a copy of Custom PC and find out, hadn’t you?
Custom PC Issue 109 is available in all good newsagents, most bad ones, and digitally via the Zinio service.