From the back of the book…

Astronomy, the study of the heavens, and your Spectrum are just made for each other. The graphics potential of the Spectrum means that the subject can be brought to life. This book gives heavy emphasis to the visual content of computing and astronomy.

This book Is not specifically directed at astronomers but to Spectrum owners who wish to expand their computing interests Into other fields. The author Introduces all aspects of astronomy and computing from tracking the orbit of a planet to a satellite. The high quality graphics will also allow you to simulate the movement of the stars for any night at any time.

We are all prisoners on Earth. We hope that the programs in this book will entice you to flights of fancy to other worlds.

Maurice Gavin is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and a council member of the British Astronomical Association. He is founder editor of Apex, a specialist astrocomputing magazine. He is also a regular contributor to Popular Computing Weekly.

ZX Spectrum Astronomy (My Waffle…)

ZX Spectrum Astronomy was a paperback back book written by Maurice Gavin and published by Sunshine Books in 1984.  As the title would suggest, the author sought to tie together the early eighties craze for home computing with the study of astronomy.

Most books from this period sought to teach programming by dangling the gaming carrot in front of the readers nose. The results were often below expectations and even on occasion the programs failed to work. This led to much frustration on the part of the would-be Matthew Smith as hours could be spent entering the instructions which in the case of the ZX Spectrum were made even more difficult by the keyboard input method being designed for an octopus (speak from bitter experience).

This is why ZX Spectrum Astronomy is a revelation: the programming is succinct, the methodology is lucidly explained and most importantly of all: the programs work. Some of the programs are quite exquisite – particularly the chapters on orbits and the planets. The graphics are very impressive considering the limitations of the hardware and the brevity of the programs. In most cases the programs can be adapted for use elsewhere.

I wish that I had stumbled across this book back in 1984 as I have a long-standing love of Cosmology. A subject, I should add that I was introduced to through science fiction novels and films as well as viewings of the still unsurpassed documentary series Cosmos. In fact I was pointed in the direction of ZX Spectrum Astronomy when following a debate on how to create ellipses using Sinclair Basic on the World of Spectrum forums.

It was following this, that I tracked down a copy of the book via Amazon and started transcribing the contents to a web platform. In doing so, I have typed up the programs (into Basin and/or the Spectaculator emulator) contained in the book partly to assuage my own curiosity and partly to help garner an understanding of the trigonometry of astronomy: something that is central to an understanding of this subject. I also am fascinated in how mathematics can be translated into imagery via computers, something probably best exemplified from the charts used in Excel right up to and including the fractals that are found within Chaos Theory.

Copyright and Permissions

It is important to stress that none of the work contained within this website is my own. All of the work remains under the copyright of Maurice Gavin and any agencies, companies or people that he worked with when writing the book.

I have attempted to contact Mr Gavin via an email address that I found on a website. However, I suspect that it is defunct and will have to seek permission to transcribe and publish this book via other agencies.

I hope therefore, that the author does not think that I have ‘jumped the gun’ by deciding to post his work without either a) his knowledge or b) his approval. No offense is meant and of course should the author decide that he does not wish for the contents of ZX Spectrum Astronomy to be made available then I will immediately close the site.

Of course, I hope that Mr Gavin is content for the book to be displayed in this manner as there are some wonderful little programs that could do with a new airing particularly as the superlative accompanying text introduces the reader to a subject that has transfixed us since pre-history.

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