Back in 1981, it was only possible to buy a ZX81 via mail order. I ordered one as soon as it was advertised. The promised delivery was two weeks, but due to the massive demand Sinclair was late in delivering every one. Whenever you called or wrote to chase the delivery the response was ‘it will be two weeks’.
When it eventually arrived I got my soldering kit out and built the kit. The same evening I had it connected to the portable TV and wrote my first program to check that it worked.
It was amazing, a computer of my own, previous to this I had no access to a PC only occasional access via a teletype to an old system at the college.
It had 1024 bytes of RAM to hold programs, which was enough to learn BASIC (Beginners All Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code), the programming language, and to enter small programs and games.
After a few months I had expanded the ‘system’ to add a 16K RAM pack a Sinclair ZX printer. The printer was an interesting contraption that worked by burning an aluminium coated paper to produce black characters on a silver background. The noise and smell when printing was fairly appalling.