Your Chance to WIN a Sinclair ZX81 Computer (in 1983)

13th August 2023

Last week sometime a fox dug a hole in our garden. In the process he unearthed an empty bag of popcorn. The “best before” date was from 1983, the year the house was built, so I can only assume it was dropped by one of the builders. I’m honestly astounded at how well the packet has survived being buried in the dirt for forty years. I know plastic takes a long time to break down, but the fact that even the colours and the writing don’t seem to have faded since the day it came out of the factory is shocking.

While it’s interesting seeing this piece of history turn up, even better than that; at the time Butterkist were running a contest to give away a bunch of Sinclair ZX81s! For 60p worth of tokens and the price of a second class stamp you could put yourself in with the chance of being master over a whopping 3.25MHz processor and 1KB of memory 💪

As well as collecting 5 tokens from packets of popcorn, you had to answer two questions printed on the rear;

  1. Give a ten-letter word using some of the top line of letters on a Sinclair keyboard or typewriter.
  2. If it takes 5 boys 5 minutes to eat 5 bags of Butterkist how long does it take 1 boy to eat 1 bag of Butterkist?

Unfortunately, entries closed on 25th July 1983 (before I was even born) otherwise you can be sure I’d be digging more holes in the garden to see if I could find 4 more vouchers! Since that’s not an option I’ve been trying to decide what to do with the packet. One would be to try and auction it, but it’s probably not worth very much and that doesn’t seem very exciting. Another possibility is to give it to someone like the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge or the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley, but I’m guessing they would be more interested in an actual Spectrum than an empty packet of popcorn (understandable). The final option, the one that sounds the most entertaining, is to offer it to YOU. Send me your answers to the questions above, I’ll choose the most amusing response and then send the packet to that entrant to take pride of place in be added to their own personal Sinclair/popcorn memorabilia collection.

I’m not sure how many people are going to read this, so I’ll wait until at least ten people have responded before selecting a winner. Who knows how long that will take. Let’s hope it takes less time than the forty years the packet has been buried for. Just in-case people do actually message me, here's some small print;

  • I will only mail the packet to an address in mainland UK.
  • I’m only going to use a second class stamp. If it gets lost in the post, hard luck 🤷 If you really care that badly that it arrives safely, you can pay any additional costs for insured postage etc.
  • I’m less concerned about whether the answers are right and more interested in being amused. Let’s not have any arguments about how quickly a boy can eat a bag of popcorn.
  • I'd like to post any answers I get on the blog, for the lulz. By sending me a message you’re giving me permission to do that.
  • This packet has been buried in the ground for forty years and was (likely) dug up by a fox. If you're allergic to foxes you probably shouldn't enter. I'm taking no responsibility for adverse effects on your health.
  • Contrary to the conditions on the back of the packet; employees of The House of Clarks Ltd and Sinclair Research Ltd, as well as their families ARE eligible for this draw!
  • You're not going to end up on any marketing lists by sending a message. In all likelihood you'll only hear from me if you win and I need your postal address.
  • This is in no way sponsored by Butterkist. In fact, let’s hope Butterkist packets are not like wheelie-bins, where they retain ownership and demand I return the packet to them.
  • Anything else I’m missing from this list that could turn around and bite me because I haven’t thought this through properly.