A Spectrum? Being released on time?
Where have we heard this before?
Retro Computers, the biz behind the Sinclair-compatible ZX Spectrum Vega+ handheld console, is rebutting claims by critics that the gizmo will not be ready in time for its target launch date. Earlier this week, Retro Computers announced to the world that the ZX Spectrum Vega+ is to get an official launch on October, as …
I'm actually one of the nearly 4000 backers so nobody is more nervous than me about getting this bad boy. (Though it's only £100 so it's not like my house is at risk)
With only about 4 weeks to go we will soon find out. But I do feel for retro here, they say all is well and because somebody who probably claims to be in the know says it's not going to happen, all they can do is deny it. People are quick in assuming guilty and they have no way to disprove the claim in the short term.
Anyway, there is always some risk with a kick starter by definition but I'm going to stay positive for now unless something concrete should make me want to reconsider....
It's not a Kickstarter, it's a crowdfunding project on Indiegogo. This is more than a semantic difference; IGG projects are always less safe because the site's practices are less rigorous and - let's be blunt - less honest than those of Kickstarter. The worst of it is IGG providing a "flexible funding" option, where backers have their cash taken whether or not the project meets its goal. This has led to IGG being a natural magnet for scams and vapourware, as the scammer doesn't even have to convince $10,000 worth of idiots to trust them before seeing a return.
Not all Indiegogo projects are scams, and I really hope the Vega+ isn't one of them. I might even buy one once they hit retail if the reviews are good. But I'd never back an IGG project, and I won't trust anyone who runs one until their product does go to retail.
Nope, they haven't shipped to Kickstarter supporters yet. In fact if you read through the rather tedious comment stream on the site you'll see a note from the suppliers to the effect that they won't be starting shipping until after the "launch" date of 20th October.
As far as I am aware they have not yet published a photograph of a real, manufactured device yet, only prototypes and design moulds. Which might cast some doubt on their claims that small numbers are already being manufactured.
I may buy one -- while it wasn't a Sinclair, my first serious computing was done on a Z80-based machine; oh, the endless fun POKEing assembly! It sometimes even worked!! -- but I will wait until there's actual HW out there being poked (see what I did, there?) by actual users, if it's all the same to you.
If I remember my brief encounter with a ZX81, I bought an assembler called ZASM or something similar where you loaded the assembler program into memory, then added the assembler code as REM statements, and then ran it. It assembled the code into more REMs somewhere else in the program. You then deleted the assembler and the source, and wrote any extra BASIC around the machine code.
I already knew 6502 assembler, but I learned Z80 assembler on this setup. It kept me busy while my BBC micro arrived.
This isn't a Z80-based machine, though, it's basically just some arbitrary hardware running a Spectrum emulator.
Purely guesswork here, but there's *got* to be at one- if not several- faceless Chinese factories churning out customised variations of some generic, moderately-powered handheld design by the millions, surely?
The case- which was apparently designed by Rick Dickinson (who designed the original ZX80, ZX81 and Spectrum cases amongst others)- is okay, but not especially "Spectrum-ish" beyond the trim (#), and not drastically different from a generic handheld. It might be argued that form follows function, but is this worth the hassle of manufacturing a custom case design? (Which may also be behind the hold-up...?)
Since it's only an emulator anyway, wouldn't they be just as well going down the former route?
(#) Whereas the proposed design for the proposed Spectrum Next- also by Dickinson- is more clearly Spectrum-influenced. That machine is also intended to feature a genuine hardware implementation- via an FPGA- of the original Spectrum design. While I'm not saying I'd definitely buy it, I'd be more interested in that one than the Vega+ handheld.
I chipped in £100 yesterday as a vote of confidence.Watching the shareholders tear their own company apart is distressing but the Vega+ reverts to playable children's games without Internet access and I'm all for that. And programming too, with a USB keyboard. I'd not be surprised if it sells like hot cakes once they're delivering.
It you add up all of the signs then I think that this project is no in good shape. Talk is cheap and we have seen it before.
As a user/purchaser of early microcomputers (that's what we called them back then) including Dragon64, SWTPC 6800, MSI 6800, Acorn, TRS80 and NASCOM then the saga has very familiar pattern to it.
If the suppliers cannot hit volume for the Christmas market then, by Q1 2017, a lot potential customers will have lost interest. If they do manage some large scale production then we will be able to buy them at a discount by Q2 2017. I will wait until then....
It's a completely different manufacturing environment now. If you have the design and the board layout, and are not using anything particularly esoteric, then there are companies in China who are queuing up to build these things for you.
Just look at Alibaba, and there are adverts for companies that will build to your design, and at volume that you want. It's a bit late for volume shipments before Christmas (shipping by sea can take 6 weeks), but it may still be possible to get them air-freighted in if you can accept the cost.
Chances are these things are in a container somewhere on the ocean. Lets hope it is is not on a ship owned by Hanjin Shipping Company!
I can't see the enthusiasm for this product. Those with fond memories of the Spectrum will buy one, play it for a week, and then the nostalgia rush will swiftly wear off and it all just starts to look a bit rubbish in comparison with the modern day equivalents. Just like it did the last time you got your real Spectrum out of the attic, or the last time you ran one of the many emulators available.
Video games have move on somewhat since the 1980s. Chances are so have you. You can't turn back the clock, so why not leave it all the way it should be; happy memories?
You can go back, you just have to be selective.
I would say that, personally, 8 bit games are getting on a bit. I neither use my real MSX or emulated 8 bits on a regular basis.
On the other hand I still play games from the late eighties onwards reasonably often : PC (DOS), Dreamcast, original XBox, bit of SNES, Gameboy Advance, etc.
I rarely play video games, but when I do it is always those old 80s coin operated games on an emulator. Because the new stuff seems to be all about visual effects instead of fun.
For me, Galaxians remains the peak of gaming (though there never was a faithful repro of it on a spectrum).
I like these Vega+ things, it is their second project so I am sure it will eventually find its way into backers hands. I will buy one too, but some months after the start shipping for a lot less money.
"I rarely play video games, but when I do it is always those old 80s coin operated games on an emulator. Because the new stuff seems to be all about visual effects instead of fun."
I think in a lot of ways you are right, although modern games do actually tend to have a story, which old games didn't.
Even if you ignore the story (which is actually fairly good IMO), GTA5 can be great fun. Particularly if you've had a bad day otherwise. You can just fire up GTA, turn on a weapons cheat and blow random shit up. It's surprisingly therapeutic.
Well done to The Register for being the only "tech site" to not simply regurgitate the Retro Computer press release and say the Vega+ will be "released" on the 20th October!
I'm sure you'll be waiting a long time for them to get back to you because they really don't like people asking awkward questions. They still want people to cough up some money and back this thing even though they've had around 400% of what they originally asked for and have absolutely nothing other than a development board to show for it.
Exactly what *is* there to develop? As far as I'm aware, it's only meant to be a software-based emulation of the Spectrum anyway.
There are numerous emulators out there, and even the dirt-cheapest of the numerous commodity systems out there (think system on level of entry level Android phone from five years ago) probably has enough power to emulate the Spectrum at many times its original speed, and well-developed OS support.
If they're not doing a hardware-based reproduction, there's no point in developing their own system, and I hope for their sake (and their investors) they're not bothering with that..?!
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