The 30th anniversary of the ZX Spectrum has sparked a flurry of nostalgia pieces in the games press, many of which for some reason can't help comparing the Sinclair machine to its main American competitor. And since the games press is a dictatorship of dullards, the C64 has come out on top in most of them, invariably helped by a colossally biased selection of judges.
Eurogamer, for example, takes a big dump on the Speccy's birthday cake by calling on Julian Rignall (editor of a C64 magazine), Steve Jarratt (editor of a C64 magazine), Gary Penn (writer on a C64 magazine), Gary Liddon (writer on a C64 magazine), Jason Page (a C64 coder) and Paul Glancey (writer on a C64 magazine) – with only some three-year-old quotes from the sadly-deceased Jonathan "Joffa" Smith holding up the Speccy's end of the debate – to come to the startling opinion that it deems the C64 the superior machine. Last month's Retro Gamer reached a similar conclusion for much the same set of spastic-faced reasons. ("Whine bleat SID chip wah wah wah.")
But fuck all of them, because they're all cunts and they can suck our dicks.
Why was the Speccy better than the C64? Well, there's all the stuff about the games, sure. One shouldn't forget the amazing, groundbreaking titles that the Speccy was playing sole host to while the C64 pioneered the dull, soulless games industry of today with endless arcade ports and licences.
3D Deathchase, Chaos, Rebelstar, Lunar Jetman, All Or Nothing, Deus Ex Machina, Knight Lore, Fat Worm Blows A Sparky, Atic Atac, The Train Game, Mined Out, Hijack, Wheelie, Dark Star… the list is – well, this particular one ends here, but there are so many more games that could go on it, as predominantly British Speccy developers showed time and again the quirky originality that so often characterises them and is missing from their lunkheaded US counterparts.
We shouldn't neglect the clean, crisp artistry of Speccy graphics (reaching a pinnacle with the ultrabold minimalism of the awesome Cruising On Broadway), in bright razor-edged rainbows compared to the blobby vomit-coloured chunks of most C64 titles. That the C64 could (almost, anyway) recreate the Speccy's laser sharpness in titles like Manic Miner, but nearly always chose games that looked like they'd been drawn with a toddler's chewed-up Lego and some paint-daubed potato halves, speaks volumes for the babyish unsophistication of its audience.
We shouldn't forget the C64's 20-minutes-plus loading times in its early years, nor the terrifyingly expensive cartridge games or disc drives you had to fork out for in those days to get round them. And we should certainly make a point of recalling the Speccy's ultra-accessible, error-proofed version of BASIC, which led so many of today's coders gently by the hand into the forbidding world of programming where the C64's sent them reeling in terror – the difference between dumb, soul-sapping consumption and the life-giving spark of creation.
But most of all, the incontrovertible reason why the Speccy was (and remains) better than the C64 is this: the C64 was just so God-damned all-to-Hell ugly. A hideous, bloated, 1960's-looking design atrocity, you had to be a tasteless idiot just to be prepared to tolerate having one in your home (a fact which alone instantly renders all pro-C64 arguments worthless, as they by definition come from tasteless idiots whose opinion must be discounted accordingly).
Those grossly-wrong proportions – too wide, too shallow, too tall. Those awful, awful keys, with the much-too-deep concave surfaces, sharp raised edges and huge crevasses in between, that made your fingers hurt and were the chief reason the C64 had so many dull arcade-type games compared to the Speccy's full, deep and broad range of genres (because anything you couldn't play on the C64 with a joystick and its single fire button was an agonising, skin-shredding trial).
And as for the colour scheme (beige and brown! Mmm!) and the embarrassing Fisher-Price typefaces, well, the less said the better. In the name of Christ, even the Dragon 32 was prettier than the C64.
Compare and contrast the C64 with the Speccy, however. The original model is nothing short of a timeless design classic. Thrillingly compact, jet black, supermodel-thin. Soft, yielding keys covered in iconic, mysterious symbols in a pin-sharp, futuristic-yet-understated font, and that modest, stylish brushstroke of rainbow colours at the bottom-right colour – glance at Uncle Clive's spoof Speccy "joypad" to see just how recognisably beautiful the Speccy's design still looks today.
The original Speccy beside the C64 is like lining up an iPod against an old Dansette. Even the Plus/128 models, with their ill-advised plastic keyboards, are a joy visually, as if the old Speccy had encased itself in body armour like a shiny black version of Robocop. The C64, by comparison, is something more closely resembling a fatter, older version of Neil from The Young Ones crossed with Roy Wood of Wizzard. Directive 5: Kill All Hippies.
In fact, the C64 versus the Speccy is really prog rock versus punk rock (an analogy backed up by the way C64 apologists always whine on about the poxy SID chip, preferring its stale, sterile "musicianship" to the anyone-can-do-it punk energy, invention through necessity and function-over-form ideals represented by the Speccy). And I'll take Sid Vicious over the SID chip, the Doberman-lean 195 seconds of "Pretty Vacant" over a 25-minute Yes keyboard solo, any day from now unto eternity.
(And anyway, what they never mention is that a lot of the time having all this poncy chip music meant the games couldn't have any sound effects at all – as is the case with the otherwise-ace recent C64 port of Canabalt which is rendered COMPLETELY POINT-MISSINGLY WORTHLESS by not having the tip-tap footsteps and smashing of windows which were what MADE THE GAME GOOD IN THE FIRST PLACE. Sound-effect feedback is the atmospheric lifeblood of games, and if you're happy to sacrifice game sounds for some nerdmuzik then YOU DON'T ACTUALLY LIKE GAMES.)
So you can shove your revolting C64s up your pallid, flabby arses, you wet bunch of Woodstock refugees. Your computer – like all its crappy games – is ugly and shit, and we're so pretty, oh so pretty. And we don't care.