The Sinclair Spectrum and the Sam Coupe and Elite still have a large following in Britain. One of the foremost events in the Sam/Sinclair scene is the twice-yearly Computer Fair at Gloucester, sponsored by Format Publications - an event known affectionately to its devotees as 'The Gloucester Gathering'. Here the latest Z80 software and hardware are demonstrated and sold, ideas are exchanged, equipment changes hands at the lively bring and buy stall, old friends and fellow enthusiasts meet and new friends are made.

The 9th Fair took place on October 25th 1997. Exhibitors, hardware and software developers, and Z80 enthusiasts from all over the country coverged on the hall at Quedgeley, on the Gloucester Ring Road, on a crisp autumn morning. Many of them had set off before dawn to be there when the Fair opened at 10.30a.m.

The Fair's Organizer, Bob Brenchley, was in attendance on Format's own stand. Bob is the Proprietor of Format Publications, and the Editor of the two Format magazines - the 10 year old Format, dedicated to the Sinclair computers and the Sam, and the recent addition to the stable, Format PC.

Bob's wife, Rose, and daughter, Anne-Marie, handle the catering. Their day starts early because the exhibitors, many of whom have been on the road for hours, are greeted with coffee and snacks when they arrive.
Then there is a lull while the exhibitors set up their stands, before the doors open to the public and the demand for food and drinks starts up again. Anne-Marie and Rose take advantage of this half hour of calm to put their feet up, read a book, do the crossword, and generally brace themselves for a busy day.

Software houses
Computer clubs

You can always rely on running into the well-known names in the Sam/Spectrum world at Gloucester.
In the background in the centre of this picture, Nev Young bends over to explain something to an enquirer. Nev is the proprietor of SD Software, the company which gave the Sam world PC Suite, enabling PC and Sam owners to exchange files, and PC readable discs to be formatted on Sam. His Specmaker program is one of the most successful solutions to running Spectrum programs on a Sam. Database programs, fractal generators - Nev has published and/or written them all. He is also a hardware master, and it was he who developed the Sam hard drive interface.

On the right of this group, in the baseball cap and the green sweatshirt, is Colin Macdonald, the founder of Fred Publishing and the original editor of Fred, the longest running and most successful of the disc based Sam magazines. Colin's skilful negotiations have made it possible for some of the best computer games to be made available for Sam - Lemmings would not be walking relentlessly across Sam screens were it not for Colin's efforts in securing the licence to produce the Sam version and finding the right person to do the conversion. His publication of Sam C opened up the world of Sam programming to new heights.

The acknowledged expert on everything to do with word processing and running an office or small business with a Sam is the Revd. Tony Kinch. He was on hand to demonstrate his latest modifications to The Secretary word processor.
With this new advance he has made it possible for PC files to be imported, edited and printed as Sam Secretary documents.

The Format Computer Fair at Gloucester is a time for chatting, enquiring, buying - for learning more about pushing your Z80 based computer to the limits and getting it to do things that people who have never used a Sam or Spectrum would say were impossible.

We don't scorn the PC - many of us own them, and we have the FORMAT PC magazine - but we know that you can run a small business, keep a club's records, do your home word processing, produce DTP posters, leaflets and so on, just as efficiently, much more cheaply and with more control over what you are doing with a Z80 based machine. And programming on the Z80 machine is easy and fascinating, whether you work in BASIC, machine code or C. They are the machines which started the whole trend towards home computing and they are still contributing now.

Enquiries about the Fairs, subscribing to Format and related topics to

34, Bourton Road,
TEL: +44 1452 412572

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