A third Visual Compendium book; Sinclair ZX Spectrum: A Visual Compendium has now been published by Sam Dyer at Bitmap Books, following another highly successful KickStarter campaign. It follows on from two other successfully funded books covering the Commodore 64 (see review here) and the Commodore Amiga, but now covers my personal chilhood hero; the ZX Spectrum. In honour of this, the book colour has changed to black and looks great for it. I also pledged for the ‘capsule’ perk which sees my copy packaged in a polystyrene block with a cardboard sleeve, supposed to mimic the original ZX Spectrum 16/48K packaging (more on this later in the review).
Inside the Compendium
Designed by Sam Dyer, Edited by Steve Jarratt and published by Bitmap Books (bitmapbooks.co.uk), the Sinclair ZX Spectrum: a visual compendium is the third in a series of books that concentrate on visuals rather than the written word for the crux of their content. From the beautifully printed matt black spot varnished dust jacket to the bright and colourful graphics depicted within, the book delivers this ‘visual’ concept in a very appealing way.
Oozing a quality that has become the norm for a Bitmap Books publication, Volume 3 hits the floor running when it comes to content. Special inks were used to great effect, highlighting the ZX Spectrum’s bright and colourful display. The foreword by graphic artist Ste Pickford tells of the difficulties Spectrum artists had when it came to the limited colour palette and infamous attribute clash the Spectrum endured, yet how they then overcame the limitations to produce some of the most iconic graphics and artwork of the 80s. This is followed by a short piece by Rick Dickinson – designer of the ZX Spectrum and other Sinclair computers. He tells the story of the design of the Spectrum and how Sinclair managed to compromise on specification to produce a microcomputer that was half the price of the competition at launch. The main content of the book follows the same format as the previous volumes – double page spreads featuring graphics from popular games, each with one or two short reviews. These are interpersed with interviews and pages of short memoirs from many notable people from the Spectrum universe.
Some aspects of the book that cannot be given the same glowing review are the extras, some of which were gained by reaching stretch goals during the KickStarter campaign. The John Harris ZX Spectrum manual artwork poster for instance is poorly printed and is but a faded shadow of the original piece of artwork. Yes, the stretch goal extras aren’t technically part of the book and should probably be regarded as a bonus, but the same cannot be said of extras that were paid for. The capsule that was supposed to represent the original ZX Spectrum packaging just doesn’t hit the mark at all. The sleeve is fine and mimics the artwork on the book cover itself, but the polystyene (which is embossed with the Sinclair logo as per the originals) is of a different type and the corners and edges of the capsule are not rounded as they were on the iconic original packaging, and indeed as they were shown rendered on the KS campaign page. For me these oversights whilst maybe appearing small and insignificant to some just ruin the whole nostalgic feel that the packaging should engender. I feel that many original ZX Spectrum owners will feel much the same way.
Undoubtedly this book again lives up to Bitmap’s continuing high standards of design and finish. Owners of Sir Clive’s great British computing icon owe it to themselves to get a copy of this sublimely printed book, which only misses out on a full score due to the disappointing polystyrene packaging.
Original post can be found at Retro Games Collector
Sinclair ZX Spectrum: A Visual Compendium by Bitmap Books – review