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 …

OK then

This looks worse than the £15 Sega handheld I got my daughter for going on holiday (so I didn't care if she lots it). Ended up being rather good and she loved Echo the dolphin etc

No instructions in the box is not a problem, I think kids excel at figuring things out and get a kick out of it. I'm sure many of us on here are OLD at 35+ and remember having to figure out how games worked ourselves. I still remember the eureka moments with games like Deuteros.

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Pint

Could there be a more reflective screen?

Nobody would be able to sneak up behind you.

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Re: Could there be a more reflective screen?

What are they going to do? Steal it or commiserate?

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So the only thing that RCL have done is to inveterately successfully emulate early 80's Sinclair by turning out an unfinished and buggy piece of hardware that has screen flickering, dodgy buttons, cheapest components and not shipping them on when promised.

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Every game bundled ... appears to have been written by one Jonathan Cauldwell...

And he didn't start writing Speccy games until 1989, when the ZX Spectrum was verging on "retro" already...

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Re: Every game bundled ... appears to have been written by one Jonathan Cauldwell...

TBH, the games got much better (technically) later in the 8-bit computers' lives when the coders really started to master every aspect of the hardware.

Some latter day C64 demos have been so stupendously good that had they been there from the get-go, no-one would have bought even Amigas.

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What a bloody shame.

So it's semi-vaporware then.

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Boffin

Need a new name for physically-present vapor-wear

Sludge-wear?

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The best thing I've read on El Reg for a long time.

My favourite bit: "Rather, it’s what happens when you look at a picture of a Rick Dickinson case design and trace round it with crayons."

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Jonathan Who?

As an old Speccy head I don't recognise the names of any of the games listed or the dev so I Googled him. Turns out his first games were written in 1989 and published for free on the covers of Your Spectrum and Crash magazines. I read both at the time & still don't recognise him or his games so clearly they weren't even decent as free games.

He contunued to make Spectrum games into the 2010s but none of them are published by a real publisher. I found an article about him that showed a screenshot of Egghead "his most successful game" (probably because it was included on the cover of Crash) which looks exactly like the first level of Manic Miner.

I therefore conclude that the games included are cheap knockoffs of existing games that few will have ever heard of because no one ever bought them. So, so glad I didn't buy into this cynical attempt to cash in on my childhood.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Jonathan Who?

Don't be too harsh- Jonathan Who already has to live in the shadow of his brother/sister who's a famous Doctor.

(To any sci-fi pedants about to point out the obvious mistake; Yes, I know that, it's a joke, shut up!)

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Re: Jonathan Who?

So you haven't played any of his games, but you're more than ready to write them all off as crap? How delightful.

The Egghead sequels are more like a cross between the Monty Mole and Dizzy series, and alongside those Albatrossity, GameX and Slubberdegullion are as good as any top-selling title from the 80s. At least, when run on a real Spectrum.

Also, what publisher do you think is going to run up tape duplication for Spectrum games in 2018? They'd have to be completely barking mad.

Oh, wait, https://cronosoft.fwscart.com/Spectrum/cat5357733_4119462.aspx

It's a disaster that there are no 80s games on this device, and indeed plenty of more recent games were offered up to RCL after the row over permissions was stirred up again earlier this year, but none of those have appeared.

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Re: Jonathan Who?

Screenshots and videos show they seem to be pretty uninspired copies of the 80s games, and as people are interested in the Vega for the nostalgia factor, wouldn't it be better for them to play the originals which mean something to them?

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Unsurprising mauling (and mostly deserved)

So Gareth, giving this 4 out of 10 was not the only surprise, being told by you that it's FUSE based was the biggest surprise, not that we didn't know, but for somebody who has so doggedly followed the trials and tribulations of this project I am somewhat perplexed to find you didn't know this nugget. My 12-year old knows this.

It's a shambles no doubt, but the horrible buttons can be fixed easily (as my pal who has one can testify) - with a couple of quids worth of bits - of course it should never have been released like this in the first place !

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Unsurprising mauling (and mostly deserved)

Most of we techies can tamper and improve the products we buy but we either don't want to void warrenties, get a withering stare from our beloved partners that stops us dead in our screwdriver carrying mitts or the main thought, "This is shite, we shouldn't have to improve something that should have been designed, tested and released properly.". Much as I knew this would be a disaster, I'm still disappointed as this could have been a way to add something to retro computing. They could have done so much more, they could have made a more generic 8bit box that played more emulators, instead they've rushed a half-finished, half-baked and hald-cocked laod of typically "Made in Britian" pile of poop that event he most die-hard fans will roll their eyes at.

Sad to say this fiasco will be yet another footnote in the ongoing "Made in Britian" disaster movie we've been making since the late 1950s and explains why we're only good in this country as a tech training ground and providing finanical services and if Barnier and the French have their way, we'll lose both those feathers in our cap too. This product sadly epitomises a lot of how we Brits do things when we do them badly, great idea that slowly gets mired in arguments and squabbles over minor details, poor management and lack of comittment.

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I wonder...

When people will stop to blindly invest in good looking, yet unfounded, promises on crowd funding websites. Because from my point of view the projects which actually delivered on their promises are quite in the minority.

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Re: I wonder...

It's a matter of which crowdfunding website it is as well. If it's Indiegogo then you know from the start it's probably a bit dodgy as why would you say you'd do something if you didn't get all the money you needed?

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"It powers up, which is a positive point."

...is it?

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How to destroy a dream :o(

if ever the words "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive -- R.L. Stephenson" were more apt, I have yet to see them - this is just a mess, and I am being polite

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Holmes

Preprod

I'm surprised that nobody has made this comment.

The units described sound an awful lot like preproduction prototypes.

Just a random thought.

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Re: Preprod

Which is what they are - preproduction prototypes, but once you drop the pre- , ...

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Joke

We found it necessary to use a prodding device to access the two buttons

A cattleprod?

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Facepalm

GamePark did a better job over 10 years ago!

I had a GP2X and GP32 10 years ago and they both worked better than this utter pants toy, with the advantage that the GP products could play lots of different emulators. As someone else said, this is "Carry On : Playing a Pocket Emulator" and RCL remind me of Boggs and Co from Carry On at Your Convinience.

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Anonymous Coward

Also ... is that the USB logo I see. What's the bet they never went through the expensive process of compliance in order to use the logo.

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Oh dear, what an embarrassment. This kind of cheapjack, half-finished product may just about pass muster as a £30 stocking-filler at Christmas, but as a serious retro gaming machine it fails miserably. What a shame that it drags the much-loved Sinclair name (to those of us of a certain age) through the mud.

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Mine has yet to arrive...

The only possible explanation is that RCL is spending a few more weeks finishing it off for me.

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Re: Mine has yet to arrive...

Yep, finishing it off with hot glue and a hammer. How else can you get that pre-scratched, generally broken look?

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BIG NEW!

Ni Hao!

One weird trick for solving screen flicker! And also a button issues!

Throw it under steamroller!

This flattens a stomach too!

Bye for RCHELL!

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Re: BIG NEW!

Not enough upvotes.

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Still don't get the point even if it worked, unless you're going to reverse engineer a speccie and make a proper one

You might as well scour car boots and ebay and get the real thing

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98% ZX Spectrum look a like

I would prefer a 98% ZX Spectrum look a like with all the ports of the old one plus two USB ports and a couple of SD card ports. Perhaps a slightly better keyboard. I can imagine something like this made out of a Raspberry Pi board.

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Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

You would have to modernise the video output also. If I recall correctly, the Spectrum, like most early home computers, produced only RF-modulated PAL which you connected to the antenna input of your TV (were there any NTSC versions?). I'm not sure all TVs even have a PAL tuner any more.

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Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

Most ZX Spectrum ULA chips can be tapped to produce a composite video signal.

It takes a bit of soldering, but it can be done, and there are FGPA versions of the ULA now if you really want to custom-build it.

Even the original RAM chips have probably died by now and are easier to just replace with one large chip than the multiple Upper/Lower RAM chips of the original.

Basically a Z80 of any fashion, maybe one or two custom chips / RAM chips, and you could easily do such. The expansion connector was literally just the Z80 I/O pins for certain ranges brought out to the connector, IIRC (even the Interface 2's ROM cartridges were nothing more than a direct memory chip sitting on the right exposed address lines).

The problem is that almost all the components fail over time - the ULA, the RAM, the keyboard membrane, etc. and they are what made the Spectrum unique. The bits that don't fail (the Z80 itself, that's about it) are off-the-shelf and bog-standard.

It would be easier to just ditch the entire interior and stick in a Pi Nano or Arduino. With the latter, you could easily interface with a real Z80 (timing would be a pain in the arse but manageable), and expose the I/O lines directly for peripherals.

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Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

You can switch the output from RF to composite with a simple hack in the modulator.

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Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

I suppose I should link:

https://opencores.org/project/zx_ula

A compatible (but also extended) ULA implementation in one Verilog file for FPGA.

Runs all the tricky demos, plus things like intra-border graphics demos (which are a serious test) plus all the games you can think of.

One FPGA now can do the lot, from Z80 to SRAM to ULA to direct original peripheral access or emulation.

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Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

Agree a HDMI or DVI output is needed as well. Not all TVs accept composite and ordinary RF these days.

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Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

Something like this maybe? http://retroradionics.co.uk/shop.html#!/OMNI-128HQ-LAPTOP/p/75106221/category=29185006

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Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

Or www.specnext.com ?

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ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows

Unnecessary headline text removed.

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Anonymous Coward

They seem to have got the period ergonomics right.

If you lost feeling in at least two appendages after a few games they seem to have hit the target.

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Re: They seem to have got the period ergonomics right.

Oh so true.

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Bang it on the desk..!!!

Back in the "Ant Attack" days when gaming meant Connecting a ZX tape Microdrive (With instruction's to bang the Microdrive on the desk to prevent the tape jamming before inserting) into the ZX Spectrum Interface 1 unit where a total of eight ZX Microdrive units could be connected to the Interface by daisy chaining one drive to the next via an electrical connector block, life was more than awesome.!!!

As for the latest RCL ZX Spectrum Vega+ perhaps one should follow the Microdrive instruction's and bang it on the desk, only harder before confinement to the trash can!!!...

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"Crap buttons", true to the original 48k then

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It's Sinclair Stupid!

The review seems to miss the point that this is a retro take on a Sinclair product. The ZX80 was designed to flicker the screen when you pressed the keys for example, and although the Spectrum was pretty nice it was no iPad. Steve Jobs would turn in his grave but would Sir Clive mind so much? I don't know. Lol.

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Coat

Oh yeah...

...does it have a micro-SD card wobble? To make it more authentic for ZX80/81 users...

...mine is the one with the working Speccy in the pockets.

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Expected style?

Something tells me that the build quality is somewhat a modern take on the original device's build quality. I remember game cartridges, or further back cassette boxes, having very shoddily printed labels etc. That bog-standard plastic with could-be-home-printed labelling just sounds right, to me.

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4/10 too generous

I played one of these the other day; it's like someone found a way to make already hard-as-nails Spectrum games even harder.

The device itself is a piece of unusable crap which is only worth keeping for the 'lol' collection.

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Short version of this article for the general press:

Scam on scam platform Indiegogo turns out to be scam.

In other news, you aren't going to get a hoverboard in the post.

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Better build quality than the original ZX81.

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Taught a generation to program.....

....badly.

We're still living with the fallout.

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