ZX Spectrum Game Rebroadcasted On Slovenian FM Radio After 40 Years For Users To Tape & Play

An image of Kontrabant 2 tape and manual for the ZX Spectrum

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How do you feel about starting off your day with a little bit of something unusual? A radio station in Slovenia has rebroadcasted a game released 40 years ago over its airwaves for users to download, tape, and play on their ZX Spectrums at home. I know that all of us download software from online stores or grab programs while doing a thousand other jobs like it’s always been just ‘something we do’, but to me, this feels even more futuristic and the kind of thing that younger me would have gone wild for.

It’s been 40 years since Kontrabant 2 was released by Radio Študent, and they re-released the game over the airwaves just like they did back in 1984. I can’t get my head around a game being broadcast over the internet and then being recorded and able to be played. I know it happened, I know people did it, but it still blows my mind.

Credit: racunalniski muzej/World of Spectrum

On the 8th of May 2024 at 21:30 in Slovenia (thanks for the finer details Ars Technica), the game hit the airwaves. Listeners tuned into the station could record a buzzing sound which, if recorded correctly, would play Kontrabant 2, a game originally made for gamers in Yugoslavia, now Serbia and Montenegro. Back in the day, It would run on smuggled ZX Spectrum consoles, making Kontrabant a pretty fitting name.

What Was Kontrabant 2?

Like the Yugoslavians of the day smuggling in Western consoles to play on, the first Kontrabant game saw players collecting parts to piece a ZX Spectrum together in an entirely text-based game. The sequel saw players heading to the year 2000 to to discover the consoles of the future, mixed in with punk rock songs from ‘The Kontra Band’.

Gameplay from Kontrabant 2
Credit: World of Spectrum

I know from having a Slovakian friend (hi, Peter) who was alive during the Communist regime that bands would play covers of Western songs in their own languages, only to find out they were actually cover songs once the Iron Curtain finally fell. Pieced together with information about the games from games writer Vlado Vince, we can put together a picture of how this game, especially the sequel with its political undertones, mirrored an uncertain time where, according to my friend Peter, wearing jeans was frowned upon and Western media of any kind was against the rules (for the majority of the population at any rate).

If you want to check out Kontrabant 2 and play it on your computer, you can visit the Internet Archive and play it on their emulator. It’s all in Serbian as the original game intended, so you’ll need to have Google Translate at the ready if you want to give it a go or a Serbian friend nearby if you don’t speak the language.

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