Computer Spy Games Jenny Tyler & Chris Oxlade Usborne Publishing, 1984
If you spent a lot of time with type-in books in the 1980s you probably remember visiting your local library and heading straight to the section coded 000-001. This is certainly where I spent most of my time in the library, looking through new type-in books that had arrived and seeing which ones would be compatible with my computer. Then when I was done, having a quick scan of the nearby shelf for books on UFOs, ghosts and "the unexplained".
There were two libraries I visited as a child. The first was on the neighbouring estate about 20 minutes walk from my house and was therefore the one I visited the most. It was quite a small library in what felt like a temporary building and so the selection of type-in books was quite limited. If there were more than five available it was jackpot day.
On rare occasions my mum would take me to the library in "top town" where there were richer pickings in type-in books. The selection here still wasn't huge, but at the time the library felt vast to me. However, if you've ever visited Grimsby library you'll know there are much, much bigger libraries around...
The reason I'm talking about all of this is because I distinctly remember finding Usborne's Computer Spy Games in the town centre library one day and taking it home to type in the programs. I had a Commodore 16 at the time, but the Commodore 64/VIC-20 programs worked just fine with (possibly) minor edits.
The Usborne books were (are!) wonderful things. Multi-format in their nature, it feels like they always tried to keep the programs as universal as possible so they would work across machines without too much change. Their method of highlighting syntax differences with different symbols for different machines is easy to follow, and each line of code is clearly explained so that younger readers (who are the target audience) can understand. This may mean that the actual programs are somewhat simplistic in the context of what could actually be achieved on the various 8-bit machines featured, but the focus here is on education. Each program comes with a question or two to challenge the reader to make changes - with solutions given at the back of the books.
The books themselves are great to look at - there's a consistent style across all of their titles and beautiful illustrations to accompany each of the programs. They usually clock in under 20 pages (these were aimed at younger kids, remember) but every inch of those pages is used, packing in the content.
Usborne wonderfully released high-quality versions of all of their type-in books a number of years ago, and so if you visit their website you can look through all of these completely free of charge. And of course they are still releasing coding books for kids to this day. Personally, I like the physical copies too - they're nice books to own.
Buyer’s Guide Physical copies pop up occasionally on both eBay and Abebooks, and I would normally expect to see it priced somewhere between about £3 and £8 depending on how many are floating around at the time.