PROJECT 29: THE 128K TOAST RACK GUARDIAN FARM
|Project coordinates: X -824 : Y +28 : Z -283
The time has come for a headache-inducing project. I'd found an Ocean Monument reasonably rapidly after starting this world - it might even have been the foray way out west for jungle wood when the days were still in double figures - but it's only now I've been able to dedicate the time and effort to turning one into a guardian farm. Those who remember the Lazy Guardian Farm from Rejectland will have to think bigger this time - it was going to be geared for maximum spawning rates and maximum loot generation. After all, the most precious resource a guardian farm can provide is free lighting - prismarine crystals can be turned into sea lanterns, and any herring or excess prismarine shards generated are a bonus.
I'd already looted seven Ocean Monuments - one that I'm building in now, one near the jungle island where I found the cats, and five more in the same ocean as the first - which I'd checked in a test world to see how much sponge they contained. Picking the ones with the most sponge to make my life easier, after looting those and bashing 21 Elder guardians in total, I found myself with six stacks of sponge and two extra pieces. Marvellous.
It seems I do this on an annual basis - i.e. build a farm that requires a massive amount of cave lighting. Heavy On The Magick Witch Farm occupied a lot of my time at the end of 2014, now I have this project that required similar treatment for 2015. I must have listened to Iron Maiden's entire discography four or five times through during that phase of the build; they have 16 albums, and they don't believe in short-changing their fans...
Typical production rate, per hour: 2,440 prismarine shards, 163 prismarine crystals, 918 herring
(and the occasional ink sac)
Finally, I will reveal what this "128K Toast Rack" business is all about.
In 1985, Sinclair were trying to sell Spectrums overseas, and were doing so quite well in Spain, where they had a distributor, Investrónica - for anyone who was wondering why there are so many Spectrum games released in Spanish, there's your answer. The Spanish government, in their infinite wisdom, decided to advance their country's computing ability by slapping extra tax on computers with 64K of RAM or less - in essence, the budget end of the market was no longer going to be quite so budget. Sinclair's answer to this was to get together with Investrónica and develop a model for the Spanish market with 128K of RAM - with extra features such as a Spanish keyboard, a new BASIC to handle the extra memory, a new sound chip to replace the scabby old beeper and a quite pointless calculator. In one end went the 1984 Spectrum +, and out the other came the Spectrum 128K, which had a few overheating issues in the prototype stage, so in Sinclair's usual bodge-it-and-scarper way, they shoved an enormous heat sink on the side of the case, all ready to fry errant hands to a crisp...
The 128K model was launched in Spain in 1985 but not in the UK until 1986, because there was still a stockpile of the 48K-only Spectrum + models to shift. When it finally arrived, and software developers caught wind of what the machine could do with its fancy AY-3-8912 sound chip and extra memory, the step up in class was obvious. However, because the machine was launched late, at the wrong time of year, it never sold well and would be the last of the true Sinclair computers. Enter then, Lord Sir Alan "YOU'RE FIRED!" Sugar and his Amstrad corporation, who'd been making the Johnny-come-lately-but-were-still-competitive CPC computers; his solution was to buy Sinclair Research, shove the Spectrum 128K's innards in the case of an Amstrad CPC 464 with its built-in tape recorder and sell it as a cheap games computer, which was pretty much what he'd been doing with the CPC to that point, except the Spectrum had a larger games library. That was the Spectrum +2, the model I've had since 1987 - and I've since obtained a not-quite-working Spectrum +3 (with its weird Amstrad disk drive) and both a +2A and a +2B, both variants on the +3 ROM with a tape recorder instead of the disk drive.
In the still-thriving Sinclair community that started on primitive internet sites like Usenet and is still around now, the Spectrum 128K is nicknamed the Toast Rack - because of that huge, clumsy heat sink hanging off one side. And, of course, because there were never as many of them around as the Amstrad-built models, and because it's the last of the Sinclair line, if you go looking for one on eBay, it'll cost a lot more than the Amstrad models. Plus, you'll need a tape recorder to connect to it as well!