How people used to download games from the radio

An anonymous user sent this one in, and even though it’s old – 2014 – I hadn’t read it yet, and I don’t think it’s ever been posted here.

It’s a Monday night in Bristol in July 1983. Your parents are downstairs watching Coronation Street while you skulk in your bedroom under the pretence of doing homework. In reality, you’re hunched over your cassette recorder, fingers hovering over the buttons in feverish anticipation. A quiver of excitement runs through you as a voice from the radio announces: “and now the moment you’ve all been waiting for…” There’s a satisfying clunk as you press down on play and record simultaneously, and moments later the room is filled with strange metallic squawks and crackles. “SCREEEEEEEEEEE…”

You’re listening to the Datarama show on Radio West and partaking in the UK’s first attempt to send a computer program over local radio. Joe Tozer, who co-hosted the show, recalls how it all began: “I think it was just one of those ‘ping!’ moments when you realise that the home computer program is just audio on a cassette, so why not transmit it over air? It just seemed a cool idea.”

I have very little experience with using cassettes as a data storage medium, except for that one time, somewhere in the late ’80s or early ’90s, where a neighbour kid and I loaded Rambo for the C64 from a cassette tape. That’s the only time I ever did such a thing, and in hindsight, I’m glad I got to experience this era of computing, even if it was only once.


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