back to article Another ZX Spectrum modern reboot crowdfunder pops up

Yet another crowdfunded ZX Spectrum reboot project has emerged – and this one has raised more than £290,000 from backers. Henrique Olifiers’ Kickstarter project aims to recreate the 8-bit console with a modern-day twist, based on an FPGA and incorporating an SD card slot. It will also feature a whole 512kB of memory, with …

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  1. Bob Hoskins

    Why?

    I get the nostalgic appeal but surely one of the many emulators will let you get your retro on just fine.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      You may or may not have noticed that this is a clock-cycle-precise hardware emulation, which means that even "fancy" code that does things that are supposed to be impossible on the ZX Spectrum (which tend to fail with superficial emulation) runs fine; also, due to its hardware nature, it features a real expansion port that no software emulator offers - a chance to connect actual hardware peripherals to it should you want to. Actually, I'd be quite interested myself except for a) the keyboard layout which might indeed resemble earlier Spectrum models but NOT the classic ZX Spectrum and b) I can't really justify spending 200 quid on it - that's a month's wage for some people over here...

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        As someone who owns three Spectrum's at the moment, including one that was re-jigged to include modern composite video via a ULA soldering-hack, new memory boards and new caps, let me just say:

        Emulators are perfect. Just pick a good emulator.

        Spectaculator on Windows, for instance, I can't find a single thing that it doesn't run - intended and unintended bugs and all. Does sound input from real tape, plays back to real tape while doing all the debugging and snapshotting and Multifacing and emulation/passthrough of everything from MIDI to the Currah MicroSpeech.

        So, yes, you can do everything you ever want on emulation, including even TV raster simulation, curved screen, etc.

        To be honest, though, RetroPie and a TZX file does just as good a job for any game you've ever heard of (I think it uses fbzx but there are lots of alternative cores for all the systems on it).

        I wouldn't buy this, but then I wouldn't buy the Vega either.

        And with RetroPie, for £30 on a Raspberry Pi and a handful of Xbox 360 controllers I already had, I can run every game I've ever owned, for every system I've ever owned, from one box which makes no noise heat or wiring mess, from a single menu, and it "just works" once you've done the initial configuration.

        If anything, just wiring up the old Speccy's gives me the heebies-jeebies that I'll break them or discover they've stopped working, but they certainly don't add anything. And who has composite on their TV still nowadays? Certainly nobody has RF input anymore, certainly not one they want to faff trying to tune a Speccy into (because although it might output over RF, "modern" TVs that can still tune analogue TV have a hard time spotting the Speccy signal and it often requires a lot of fine-tuning).

        Don't even get me started on trying to load from tape. Even on my original Speccy's I tend to just plug the audio cable into a smartphone which outputs the necessary tones from a TZX file in perfect, crisp sound rather than trying to get it back from an old tape deck into an ageing Speccy.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why?

          "And who has composite on their TV still nowadays?"

          Don't most new TVs still support composite via SCART?

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: Why?

            Most new TV's I've seen don't even HAVE Scart any more.

            Multiple HDMIs.

            And maybe a digital-only RF-in.

            Honestly, go look at the back of the display models in John Lewis or wherever. An awful lot of them don't have SCART, analogue or composite at all. And VGA is almost dead too unless you're buying ones made for digital signage.

            Also, the composite on Spectrum is a hack anyway. The original Speccy does not output composite without soldering. I think the +2/+3 had R/G/B in some fashion on a DIN plug (which tells you its age!).

            1. William Towle
              Boffin

              Re: Why?

              > The original Speccy does not output composite without soldering. I think the +2/+3 had R/G/B in some fashion on a DIN plug (which tells you its age!).

              The updated ULA in Sinclair's (Plus style) ZX Spectrum 128 brought in the alternative RGB output, which had composite and TTL signals available through it. I never used it, although I did find a PC with a Cub monitor and promise myself I'd get a round tuit.

              // http://www.worldofspectrum.org/ZXSpectrum128Manual/sp128p03.html

            2. Chris 125

              Re: Why?

              A lot of them don't have a full SCART socket sitting on the back, for reasons of wall mounting with the ridiculously-proportioned plug jutting out. A lot of TVs will however include an "AV input" socket and then bundle various cables that attach to that manufacturer-specific plug to break out into composite, SCART or component - that's why you won't see them on display, they're still in the box.

              A quick blezz through the Currys website at 46-55" TVs shows typically Sony and JVC include both SCART and Composite inputs, LG seems to always include Composite (even on their 4K OLED), Panasonic has Composite, and only Samsung have abandoned them on their top end models.

        2. jeffdyer

          Re: Why?

          "Certainly nobody has RF input anymore"

          Both of my TVs do, but only one of them is connected, for PiP FreeView HD at the same time as Cable.

      2. tony72

        Re: Why?

        The hardware compatibility is an interesting twist, and that does make it a somewhat interesting proposition, although similarly not £200 worth of interesting. And the thing does look pretty cool, I have to admit. But I can't help feeling that a new, updated speccy is no more a "real" speccy than an emulator is. I no longer have a speccy, but if I got one, it would be for the nostalgia of having the real thing that I had back in the day. A clone, no matter how good, is still a clone.

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          Whether it's an emulator could get a bit semantic (it's clearly not a software emulator, but via software is not the only way to be an emulator). It's the same cause and effect though: a reimplementation of the derived specification, the accuracy of which depends more on the implementation than anything else. So it's how much you trust the creators.

          That being said, it would technically be a better rendering than my computer because my computer runs at a fixed 60Hz, unlike the Spectrum's 50Hz. It could also technically beat a Raspberry Pi as usually configured if the inputs and outputs don't accrue USB latency.

          But I'm not sensitive enough to notice the latter, and am not sure the former even bothers me all that much.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why?

        There is the £99 board that you can use with a real Speccy case/keyboard, Dremel is your friend.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          Interestingly our samsung 3yo smart tv still has an analogue tuning option if you delve into the settings.

  2. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Oh good god...

    Not another one.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Oh good god...

      You are Brenda from Bristol and ICM£5

      (to help clarify for out colonial cousins)

  3. Sam Therapy

    Yup. Or just dig out yer old Speccy.

    1. Annihilator

      Indeed. For those backing with over 200 notes, if you're that interested and can brave the spider-infested attic, you can have mine for half that. There's also a C64 up there with a print out of the source code for a knock-off version of Space Invaders that I wrote if you can be bothered to type it all in. It might be on a tape, but I wouldn't be sure of that... The things we used to do to avoid paying £2.99 for a cassette at John Menzies...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Not doubt..

    ....will have another bunch of whingers complaining that they haven't received the products and the vendor can't be contacted.

    1. PaulR79

      Re: Not doubt..

      Yes! How dare they expect something they paid for with a clear indication of an expected shipping date. Outrageous.

      1. DRue2514

        Re: Not doubt..

        It's all part of the Spectrum experience.

      2. sabroni Silver badge

        Re: How dare they expect something they paid for

        It's on kickstarter, not Amazon. They've funded the development of the project. That's not the same as ordering a product off the shelf.

        If they don't understand the difference then who's to blame? Should we ban crowdfunding sites because some people don't understand how they work?

        It's a bummer when an investment doesn't pay off. If you can't afford that risk don't take it.

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: How dare they expect something they paid for

          Experience?

          Beeeeeeep bip. Beeeeeeeep bibibib bi ibib bibibib.....

          3 mons later you notice the colours stop moving. Rewind. Reset. Start again.....

  5. Stoke the atom furnaces

    Rick Dickinson

    The industrial design for the new ZX Spectrum NEXT is by Rick Dickinson who designed the ZX80, ZX81, ZX Spectrum and QL, which is why the new machine looks like a million dollars.

    http://www.specnext.com/

    1. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: Rick Dickinson

      "looks like a million dollars"

      Why would people want it to look like a million dollars instead of the original 19 and sixpence look?

      I don't really understand why people want it at all

      1. Stoke the atom furnaces

        Re: Rick Dickinson

        "I don't really understand why people want it at all"

        You wet blanket.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Rick Dickinson

      ZX Spectrum Next

      Maybe looks a bit like a QL keyboard? It's maybe 35 years ago, but I seem to remember that one Sinclair had a horrible flat membrane and the Spectrum had kind of raised rubbery keys like novelty erasers?

      1. ThomH Silver badge

        Re: Rick Dickinson

        The Spectrum + and the original 128kb looked much like the Next does, taking cues from the QL. Though they were probably the least-seen Spectrums, sandwiched briefly between the original and the Amstrad versions.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Rick Dickinson

      Just one thing bothers me about that.

      "Q. Can we get rid of the colour clash?

      Yes, with the new video modes and sprites is possible to make a full colour game without any colour clash".

      So will it run OLD games with no colour clash?

      1. Bod

        Re: Rick Dickinson

        "So will it run OLD games with no colour clash?"

        Not without modification I think. The Next adds additional graphics modes that given the memory allows a finer resolution of colour which means you won't get colour clash and get a full colour palette. This would be use for new games (and there's an active community developing new games and supporting enhanced modes provided by the Next and other similar products). Potentially old games could be patched or rewritten to update them.

        1. ThomH Silver badge

          Re: Rick Dickinson

          Bod's right, despite the voting. The video makes it clear that they've added some new video modes but that's it. Removing the clash from old titles automatically is a reasonably hard problem; pixels and colours are in separate locations so they're not adjusted atomically. Many games write pixels for sprites but not colours. So you've got to make guesses as to which colours go with which pixels probably by temporal properties. But if it's flick screen, maybe it sets all colours to black, draws the entire frame of the next screen, including initial sprite positions, then sets the real colours to avoid visible setup. So then the two things are really quite far apart and are separated by an action you'd like to capture distinctly.

      2. Mark Dempster

        Re: Rick Dickinson

        >So will it run OLD games with no colour clash?<

        No. As it says on the website.

  6. Mage Silver badge

    Ironic application?

    We bought an original spectrum and the program was just a simple test card to align geometry on video monitors (composite video in) we were assembling.

    It seems that would need an RGB to composite adaptor, (which I have and it even creates PAL), if the RGB is sort of SCART / TV timing rather than VGA timing (which is about twice scan frequency)

  7. Dwarf Silver badge
    Coat

    Its not a 100% accurate emulation

    There is no wobbly RAM pack capability.

    1. Stoke the atom furnaces

      Re: Its not a 100% accurate emulation

      The ZX81, not the Spectrum, had the wobbly RAM pack.

  8. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    there's one born every minute

  9. Conrad Longmore
    Coat

    Why not go further?

    Why not go further? I understand the C64 has already had this treatment. What about the BBC Micro? Dragon 32? Oh.. yes, maybe that it going a bit too far.

    1. AIBailey

      Re: Why not go further?

      I've got a FPGA board for retro computing, and many 8 and 16 bit computers are already supported including Amstrad CPC, Atari 8-bi,t BBC, C64, Spectrum, Atari ST, Amiga, Sam Coupe and MSX. As my board was (probably) less than the Spectrum Next (it cost me about £130 I think), I'm extremely happy with it.

      Whilst it's good that this new Spectrum will run old software, AND offer hardware enhancements, has anything been mentioned about whether it can/will run implementations of other computers?

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Why not go further?

      I suspect that too far would be the Oric-1 :) Although it would be an educational and possibly a hard task for a relaunch to accurately replicate the serious problems that these devices were launched with. In theory it was a superior device to the Spectrum however the implementation lead to it being considered the clown-car equivalent at the time.

    3. Bod

      Re: Why not go further?

      "Why not go further? I understand the C64 has already had this treatment. What about the BBC Micro? Dragon 32? Oh.. yes, maybe that it going a bit too far."

      Reboot C64 was the Amiga. Reboot BBC Micro was the Archimedes.

  10. steelpillow Silver badge

    SAM Coupé beat them all by decades

    Great projects, love the look of the Next. But one fatal flaw: folks are forgetting about the very first hardware emulator, the SAM Coupé. It had built-in emulation of all the Speccy variants, using a mix of hardware and software, along with a much-enhanced SAM BASIC, equally enhanced hardware and pluggable expansion bays. Although relatively short-lived, it grew a significant fan base, several software emulators such as Sim Coupé and even now, new hardware add-ons are still appearing (e.g. www.samcoupe.com ) If you want to tap into the full fan base / talent pool, you need to recreate the Coupé. Who knows, if Bruce Gordon is still around he may be willing to help out.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: SAM Coupé beat them all by decades

      It sounds like the Next's FPGA will be configurable as multiple targets; the FAQ explicitly says not the Sam from launch, but possibly later. So there's some hope.

      1. AIBailey

        Re: SAM Coupé beat them all by decades

        I've a Sam Coupe core on my FPGA board, and it works very well. The majority of the cores for mine are open source, so there's a reasonable chance that it could be converted.*

        * -There are other factors that may affect a conversion - memory type seems to be a regular issue (SDRAM vs DRAM), but also the design language used by the various FPGA's on the market (VHDL vs Verilog).

  11. Bod

    "Surprising to see so many..."

    "it is surprising to see so many people funding yet another ZX-themed crowdfunding product appeal"

    Because this one is an actual implementation and enhancement of a Spectrum by people who care, not a limited button gameboy gadget with an emulator that plays a handful of games on a vapourware device pushed by egomaniacs who just want to throw toys out of prams.

    It also looks awesome.

  12. Anonymous C0ward

    R Tape loading error, 0:1

    That's how I'll know it's a real Spectrum.

  13. M7S

    "£865 for five of the consoles; in effect, a BOGOF deal." - Really?

    Hopefully it will have a better spreadsheet/calculator than the author....

    1. AIBailey

      Re: "£865 for five of the consoles; in effect, a BOGOF deal." - Really?

      BFGOF doesn't roll off the tongue in quite the same way, does it.

  14. Dick Kennedy

    This isn't a flash-in-the-pan project like so many others on Kickstarter. This project has a long history, including sales of bare-board versions. So it's actually a proven design with an existing user base (albeit small) that is now getting a fancy case.

  15. Mr Dogshit Silver badge

    It was shit back in the day

    It's still shit

    1. John Riddoch
      Joke

      Re: It was shit back in the day

      I spy a C64 user ;)

      1. jason 7

        Re: It was shit back in the day

        Its funny I dont remember any real fanboy type arguing in the playground back in the 80's over spectrum or C64. We enjoyed playing on both machines.

        I guess we were a little more mature back then for kids.

  16. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    If it also can include a bog-standard VGA connector...

    For now I'm using an emulator to teach my son Spectrum BASIC programming...

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