Or, rather, an 8-bit "home computer" as they were known back then, in a bid to fool parents into buying one for their kids (let's face it, that hollow promise that we'd all be doing our homework on our computers wouldn't come to pass for another 30 years).
My best friend Stuart had a ZX-81; I remember him thumbing through the instruction manual trying to find out how to get "Space Invaders" to appear on it (he never managed to, no matter how often he typed the words "SPACE INVADERS" into the keyboard, or how hard he kicked it against the wall).
My other best mate Jon had an Oric-1. He owned two games: Ocean's Hunchback, and a flight simulator, that - if you flew sufficiently high - stranded you in outer space. It took around four or five hours of gaining altitude just to see the screen turn black, and be treated to a few blocky stars and planets. Well worth it. We took whatever entertainment we could get in those days.
I remember the pride at returning to school after the Christmas holidays and being able to tell Jon that I'd finally joined the club; I was now a bona fide Computer Boy.
I can say with some confidence that 1983 was the beginning of our family's very own annus horribilis - 12 months in which one wretched tragedy stalked another.
My cousin was killed in a car accident, my uncle died from complications relating to diabetes, and then my nine month-old niece died from cot death, followed by my granddad just five days afterwards. We were close - my sister and her family living across the road from us, my grandparents just five minutes away - so it hit hard.
I'd been playing peek-a-boo with my niece Kimberly just the night before. The following morning my mum received a phone call from my sister and screamed at me to wake my dad: "Kimberley's dead".
The universe wasn't yet done with us however, and I was there once again when my mum took a call less than a week later with yet more bad news. Even though it was discovered that my granddad had stopped taking pills for his heart condition the day my niece had died - he simply gave up on life - it barely seemed a shock. We were used to it by then, numbed by the relentless misery.
The ZX Spectrum arrived in the middle of it all, and became a refuge. My days at school were a gauntlet of name-calling and bullying, and the nights and weekends were spent with a family struggling to hold it together.
Because there wasn't enough going on already, my eldest sister and her husband - the closest I ever had to a big brother - had moved to America, and my mum decided to foster a teenage girl. Nothing felt safe or certain anymore. I was 13 years old, and my life had become unfamiliar and frightening.
The only thing I could rely on was the Spectrum. It was the rock I clung to in the stormiest of seas.
But I had company.
My dad and I never had much in common - he was into football and the army and order, whereas I liked drawing and writing and annoying him. But the Spectrum was needed as much by him as it was by me. It gave us something that we could share, a common interest finally, and the distraction we desperately needed from all that was going on.
I don't remember how I became aware of the ZX Spectrum - I might've watched a demo of it on Tomorrow's World or Micro Live - but I do recall a nagging sense that I was getting too old to play with Star Wars toys. I needed something to replace them.
And so it was that Christmas morning 1983 I came downstairs to find a ZX Spectrum already set-up. My dad - determined to test its credentials as a computer that could do more than just play games - had taken it upon himself to rob me of the excitement of an unboxing, and programmed it to say "Merry Christmas, Paul" against a violently strobing backdrop.
Once I'd regained consciousness, picked myself up off the floor and wiped the foam from my lips, I tore open the two games my parents had bought begrudgingly to accompany the Spectrum: Horace and the Spiders, and Haunted Hedges - a Pac-Man clone which claimed to be in 3D. Yes: actual, poke-you-in-the-eye, 3D!
Except: not in actual 3D. It just had a rubbish isometric effect.
With hindsight, having played them since, it's astonishing that I got any play whatsoever out of those two games. Haunted Hedges has been justifiably consigned to The Forgotten Bin, and though Horace might've been an early gaming icon, his games were ugly, hobbled, messes.
The dodgy controls, the flickering visuals, all added to the challenge, I assured myself: it's designed to be that way. The game isn't bad - you are.
Nevertheless, play them I did, relentlessly, until something better came along. That better thing was Ah Diddums, winner of the 1983 Golden Joystick Award for Best Original Game. After that, my dad - still taking an interest - bought me the 48k upgrade pack, and Kong.
And it was then that my world opened up. Classmates who had a Spectrum had all gotten the 48k model. My parents, not being rich, had gone for the 16k, but finally having access to all that extra memory meant that I had access to more games - specifically, the games my friends owned.
It was time to stock up on a whole bunch of C90 cassette tapes...