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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

“Flishy-Flashy”, A Special 8-Bit Colour

Games on the ZX Spectrum had to struggle to make good use of its limited colour palette and resolution, and some interesting techniques emerged. One which became widespread, especially in games with a black background, was to rapidly cycle through the range of colours to indicate special items to be collected (because of the way Spectrum screen memory worked, just changing colours was fast & easy). A friend of mine once called it ‘flishy-flashy’, and although he was mocked mercilessly for that I suppose it’s as good a name as any.

Flishy Flashy

Your browser may not play that animation fast enough, and you’re probably using a nice sharp screen. On a CRT PAL television, with lots of blur, colour fringing and a bit of persistence, it became almost a sparkling new colour containing glimpses of all the other colours, and couldn’t be captured in magazine screenshots.

Although I’ve seen recent games use flashing colours, it’s a technique that’s very much a product of the technology and limitations of the time. We’re no doubt currently doing various things in design/animation/interaction that are similarly tied to today’s limitations, but may not recognise them clearly until sometime in the future.


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