back to article ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows a FUSE: It runs open-source emulator

The ZX Spectrum Vega+ is running open-source Spectrum emulator software FUSE, The Register has confirmed while carrying out a hands-on review of the handheld console. As regular readers know, the Vega+ is the flagship product of Retro Computers Ltd, the company which took £513,000 in crowdfunded cash from members of the public …

Trollface

but that's the same as everyone elses review!

I await the anonymous comments accusing el reg of "a hatchet job in their OBVIOUSLY biased reporting of the zxvega+, for and on behalf of the nefarious ex-directors" declaring the reviewer "a hater and a troll".

Hi Suzanne!

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Mushroom

The Gnome Underpants have arrived!

Apparently RCL doesn't understand what a business plan is. They seem to have missed the part where you need an actual product design, or at least something more tangible than the vague notion of what it might be, before you seek funding and make promises to build it.

To me it looks like a bunch of clueless amateur retro gaming enthusiasts secured capital without anything even remotely resembling any forward planning, then sat on it for ages whilst doing essentially nothing. With all that money just sitting around for so long, it was inevitable that the cookie jar was going to end up being raided for "business expenses", where the only "business" being conducted was personal shopping sprees and piss-ups.

So now, with no money and still no product design, and the law breathing down their necks, RCL has slapped together something that could have been constructed by a 7 year old in the Raspberry Pi Club at school.

This is way beyond unprofessional. It's criminal fraud, and RCL's directors (assuming it even has any) should be prosecuted.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

£105 is far too cheap for this, and the money raised was never ever going to be enough to do it properly. I'm actually surprised anything was delivered at all.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

are you kidding on the cost? GPD seem quite capable of making more capable and flexible units at similar price points

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

"£105 is far too cheap for this, and the money raised was never ever going to be enough to do it properly."

like someone else said..raspberry pi club at school.....

cost...

30 quid for a pi 3b+ (could probably do it on a 2b)

10 quids worth of PLA a couple of hours printing on the 3d printer to produce a case..

20 quid for decent batteries and a charger...

10 quid for a SDcard...

there you go... could make it yourself for 70 quid for a single unit. reduce cost by at least half for bulk purchases and injection moulds.

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Re: The Gnome Underpants have arrived! @Oh Homer

It may look like looks a bunch of clueless amateur retro gaming enthusiasts secured capital but RCL delivered the original Vega and its most public face, David Levy, was present and active during the original microcomputer boom — he was part of the team behind the Enterprise, that leading 30 years later to probably his only positive coverage on El Reg.

Whatever the story is that has led to the Vega+, it's not the usual crowdfunded hubris.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

If you think the corners are sharp now, just wait until you print them with PLA.

I haven't seen a domestic 3d printer capable of printing anything like a smooth, rounded corner.

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Coat

Re: The Gnome Underpants have arrived!

Oh, and those buttons that look like they were painted in a hurry by the receptionist before being boxed, using coloured Tipex...

Jeeezuz.

And the fact that basically every Speccy game licensor has blacklisted RCL, leaving them with nothing but what looks like readers' submissions from Sinclair User.

OTOH, there's something about this fiasco that's very British, in the Carry On / Victory Gardens sense. It's simultaneously quaint, comical and highly embarrassing.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

"cost...

30 quid for a pi 3b+ (could probably do it on a 2b)

10 quids worth of PLA a couple of hours printing on the 3d printer to produce a case..

20 quid for decent batteries and a charger...

10 quid for a SDcard...

there you go... could make it yourself for 70 quid for a single unit. reduce cost by at least half for bulk purchases and injection moulds."

...but that's not what they did. Your argument is invalid.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

"there you go... could make it yourself for 70 quid for a single unit. reduce cost by at least half for bulk purchases and injection moulds."

One thing you forgot in your DIY costs are the LCD display and the mechanics for the buttons. Which brings you certainly above the $105, as labor cost has to be added at the very least as well.

And even with bulk purchases, I doubt there is much of a margin in this, and I suspect that this is rather one of a few dozen "samples" that have been hastly produced in a kind of DIY fashion to finally show "something"...

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

Someone else has pointed out that you forgot about the screen and the button controller. The former is obviously essential, but as it sounds like the buttons aren't even debounced, you could get the same functionality by just connecting some mini switches up to GPIO.

Oh, and you really don't need a Pi3 for FUSE: A Pi Zero would work just fine, and save you some money for that screen (I'm a bit vague on the Speccy's screen, but Pimoroni's HyperPixel would probably work fine).

There's no question that someone, young or old, could easily throw together something as basic as this for about the same outlay, if they were determined to cut corners and not at all bothered whether it was actually any good. I'm just not sure why anyone would.

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Trollface

Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

What luck on the rounded corners! Apple would sue them.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

All the switches? What about the display? It'd be a good exercise for your students to work out something like this. Some connectors would be on a Raspberry Pi board anyway, but there would be a lot of extra bits.

And the rule of thumb is still that you buy/make for £x and sell for £2x.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

Then time to go and find yourself something vaguely modern.

Just had some replacement parts for some old toy trains made, these 3d printers are more than capable of smooth rounded edges.

Would have to try this console but the write up doesnt encourage actually spending on it

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Anonymous Coward

Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

@"I haven't seen a domestic 3d printer capable of printing anything like a smooth, rounded corner. "

Yeah I can design you one for a 3d printer if you like, what you are talking about is minor and off the top of my head I can think of several cheap ways to do it.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

Not sure she's going to answer. The Twitter account is now locked and the Facebook page has disappeared. The online shop is still there though, selling products branded with a brand they don't have the rights to any more.

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Re: The Gnome Underpants have arrived! @Oh Homer

Not sure why your comment has been down-voted. Either it touched a corporate nerve somewhere or the El Reg readership has a greater percentage of the naive and the ignorant than I'd thought.

Truth is, the Vega+ story is -- very obviously -- not a chronicle of "clueless amateur retro gaming enthusiasts" but of the activities of a pair of individuals with significant roles in the life and times of Retro Computers Limited: David Levy, and Suzanne Martin.

I suspect that not a single down-voter (other than someone with a vested interest in nay-saying your post) has expended even a minute's time on examining the background of Levy and Martin: who they are, where they've been, and what they've done. In business, provenance is all. And in this instance, the pedigree is anything but that of the "clueless" or the "amateurish".

Still and all, the description is a nice fall-back for Levy and Martin to cite in future: "if only we'd known what we were doing, we'd never have made so many honest mistakes at RCL ."

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

"there you go... could make it yourself for 70 quid for a single unit. reduce cost by at least half for bulk purchases and injection moulds."

Sure, if you don't value your time at all and don't want to make any profit. I'm not claiming RCL spent much time on this, but the cost of the actual physical stuff with most products is a usually a small percentage of the final price, its the time spent designing, testing and - in the case of houses - building that takes the lions share of the investment.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

True enough, but the point is that if there's no added value in buying the 'consumer' unit compared with just throwing together some off the shelf parts and spending a few hours soldering, printing and flashing an SD card - and if the latter approach is *cheaper* - then the consumer unit is pretty pointless.

If it was possible to build something *as good as* an iPhone, for *cheaper* than an iPhone, and the only added cost was a maximum of a day's work, there would be a lot more people building their own phones. They don't because the parts wouldn't be cheaper, iPhones are engineered to a standard much better than the average hobbyist could ever hope to achieve, and iOS isn't horrendously buggy while a roll-your-own phone OS can be pretty intimidating. (Installing an emulator shouldn't really intimidate anyone who wants to play Spectrum games!) This Speccy knock off doesn't tick any of those boxes, so I've no idea why anyone would spend more money for something less good - a Pi wouldn't be nearly as limited in playable games, and it could be repurposed if you got bored of it, unlike this thing, which will inevitably end up in landfill.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

"while a roll-your-own phone OS can be pretty intimidating."

Tbh a roll your own phone would probably be banned from most networks anyway since the network providers wouldn't trust your baseband code not to have something nasty hidden away.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

So you’ve come up with £70 and you don’t have half of the parts. I’m assuming that you’ve never been charged with creating a BOM for production? You seem to have forgotten it has a screen, buttons, a charging circuit, custom PCB for this stuff to be soldered to, audio circuit, speaker, probably screws, packaging, manufacturing costs etc. Additionally a 3D printed case will be a sight worse than this as anyone who has ever used one will attest.

Not that I’m defending the poor results here, but an armchair expert’s uninformed opinions of how stuff is made usually has little in common with reality.

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Re: but that's the same as everyone elses review!

There's no question that someone, young or old, could easily throw together something as basic as this for about the same outlay,

Actually, and IIRC, Ben Heck did it in his sponsored "The Ben Heck Show".

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Boffin

Re: The Gnome Underpants have arrived!

"To me it looks like a bunch of clueless amateur retro gaming enthusiasts secured capital without anything even remotely resembling any forward planning, then sat on it for ages whilst doing essentially nothing."

As a clueless amateur retro gaming enthusiast ... I find the comparison insulting.

To me this looks like what happens when you hand secured capital to someone lacking in character, emotional maturity, and or interpersonal skills ... an explosion of greed, ego's, blame, resignation, lies and lawsuits.

Seems like if they have been honest with themselves and everyone else, they had more than enough money to hire/outsource the necessary talent and skills.

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Mine has all of those undocumented features and was also delivered with a damn great scratch at no extra cost.

I think you were generous with the "solid 4" rating.

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A solid number 2?

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more like a liquid number 2. Someone had a bit too much Olestra.

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A sloppy number two! :D

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I have fond memories of Amiga Power, a magazine that prided itself on using the full percentage range - with 4/10 being slightly below-average. 4/10 sounds too generous.

Stuart Campbell certainly wouldn't have given it 4/10, he would probably have kicked it to bits (and been arrested for doing so).

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It looks

shit.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It looks

well it is a spectrum emulator after all (says the former BBC B owner!)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It looks

It IS shit.

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Oh Dear

*Squints*

Is that a RIM Micro USB cable? So the unit didn't come with one then? Or they shipped it with someone else's cable? Come to think of it, there seems to be a lot which was promised from Retro Computers that doesn't appear to have arrived. 986 games, among other things apparently.

So, the real question: Are they intentionally ripping off their backers (they aren't really customers, don't forget, unless a judge says so) or are they really that sodding useless? "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity," so goes the phrase, however with the caveat of "but don't rule out malice". I truly do wonder which it is.

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Re: Oh Dear

@ Rameses etc.

The unit doesn't come with anything. Just the console, in a massive box.

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Trollface

in a massive box.

Where did they find the money for that, and the postage?

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Anonymous Coward

They would have been better to place a Raspberry Pi and RetroPie into it and then you could have also had other systems emulated on it. The hardware and software look very disappointing.

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Has anyone looked inside to see if it is actually a Pi Zero?

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Be a damn sight cheaper if it were...

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No - an imitation of the Pi Zero which bears all the telltale signs of being manufactured by an army of poor, overworked, underpaid souls somewhere in the Orient.

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So an authentic Sinclair experience then?

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Not really. If the ZX computers kickstarted the British home computer market and taught a generation in the early 80s, they couldn't have been that crap.

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> they couldn't have been that crap.

There was nothing to compare against.

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"If the ZX computers kickstarted the British home computer market and taught a generation in the early 80s, they couldn't have been that crap."

Oh they were. It was getting them to kind-of work that taught the 80s generation so much about computers. Kids today don't even know what an edge connector is, let alone how to keep them working.

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Notice I said Sinclair rather than ZX experience, I was more thinking of the QL.

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BBC/electron/Dragon-32/Atari/TI-32/Sord M1/VIC-20/C-64

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I'd say PCs made much less sense to get working, until Windows XP and then they became too complicated to understand.

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@Steve K

+ Oric-1/Atmos

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Re: @Steve K

My original authentic Sinclair buying experience was to walk into either WHSmith or Boots and buy one off the shelf. I had ZX81, Spectrum and QL.

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What an era that was. Never to be repeated :(

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Re: @Steve K

"+ Oric-1/Atmos"

still got my Oric 1 (it still works but I don't have a working tape player to load anything with), alas my Atmos disappeared long ago

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"What an era that was. Never to be repeated :( "

it sort of has if you look sideways and squint at the raspberry pi..... cheap, takes a little effort to do something useful and has spawned a whole ministry around similar single board computers... people are starting to code again...

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