We like digital archeology a bit at Vulture Central, so we were delighted to hear that retro-computing enthusiasts at the Museum of Computing in Swindon have found games from Dymond Software that were once believed to be lost.
The games, for ZX81 and ZX Spectrum, were released in the early 1980s by Dumfriesshire-based Dymond Software, a family business with Roger Dymond behind the rubber keys on Sinclair’s hardware.
Like many of us, Dymond started with a ZX81 and quickly produced software for the plastic screen, even as he waited for the arrival of his brand new ZX Spectrum. Compared to the ’81, the Spectrum was a revelation. Dymond was quick to put the machine’s capabilities to work for his 1982 game, Roulette.
While the graphics shown don’t test today’s hardware, they are reminiscent of simpler times, with an animated row of numbers replacing the roulette wheel. It is also surprisingly addicting.
Other games followed, in what museum volunteer Keith Mortimer estimated to be a combination of BASIC and machine code (the latter supporting the elements critical for speed).
A notable game was a Space invaders clone, Dymonoids, as well as a ZX81 version of Dymond’s game book. The former looks a lot more arcade-like than Dymond’s other games, a nod to the pace of software evolution at the time, and a hint of what might have been if Dymond had progressed.
The latter is quite more intriguing and was recovered by Mortimer from the original WHSmith C15 audio cassette (and believed to be the only copy still in existence). Readers will not be surprised to learn that the nearly four decades since the cassette graced the UK retailer’s shelves had not been kind and that some restoration (including replacement of the cassette shell and reels) was needed before the games could be launched. But they did, on a ZX81 emulator, resembling their ZX Spectrum counterparts, except without the flashy bitmap graphics and colors.
Dymond’s story as the developer of ZX Spectrum seems to end with a final announcement in the 1983 edition of Sinclair User while the big game companies have pushed small developers out of the market. Dymond himself returned to college, gaining computer skills and working as a computer problem helper in Dumfriesshire schools before his death in 1999.
The games, documented by Mortimer in his Youtube channel and downloadable on a suitable emulator, give an overview of the time, almost 40 years ago, when it was possible to create a niche at the start of the computer wave.
As for Mortimer, he is a volunteer at Computer Museum in Swindon. Like other museums across the country, the institution was forced to close its doors when the lockdown hit. The opportunity was taken to improve the museum and it was during a sorting of the software archives that Dymond’s games were found.
The museum, which is well worth a visit if one is in the area, had a “smooth” reopening on July 10, 2021, and Mortimer told us the numbers were up from the pre-COVID era . Visitors are asked to mask themselves, and volunteer staff regularly clean handy computers. ®