back to article ZX Spectrum Vega+ 'backer'? Nope, you're now a creditor – and should probably act fast

People who paid for one of the infamous ZX Spectrum Vega+ handheld game consoles are being urged to register themselves as creditors of the company before a liquidator is appointed. As regular readers know, the company which was set up to produce the Vega+ consoles, Retro Computers Ltd (RCL), took £513,000 from around 4,500 …

  1. defiler Silver badge

    You can tell your kids...

    Daddy, what's an RCL?

    Well, kiddo, take a seat. It all starting in the year of '16...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You can tell your kids...

      Well son. There was this clueless generation called millennials who were very slow to figure out sharing/gig economy meant working without benefits, crowd sourcing meant doing other people's work for free and crowd funding was investing in companies without receiving equity. Made a few not so naive folks very rich they did and at the cost of missing out on home ownership until late in life.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        The oldest millennials were 2 years old when the Spectrum made its debut. I doubt they have enough nostalgia for the platform to have funded this mess. No, this was all about Gen X'ers. There's a lot of money in trying to sell our childhoods back to us.

        1. Cuddles Silver badge

          "The oldest millennials were 2 years old when the Spectrum made its debut. I doubt they have enough nostalgia for the platform to have funded this mess."

          Wait, what? Being that age when the Spectrum came out makes us millennials exactly the ones it would appeal to - we're the ones who actually grew up with a Spectrum in the house. The tail end of gen-x could say the same, but for the most part they'd have been teens or even older by the time Spectrums were around, so there's not likely to be the same nostalgia.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Fair point. Capitalism is incredibly effective at solving the problem of people with more money than brains . I would like to think Gen X would be wise enough at this point in their life to have avoided this scam and crowd funding in general but generally people of every generation are pretty stupid on average so yeah probably right.

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Personally I never throw money into any crowd-funding scheme that I would desperately need back should it fail. Personally I don't think it's a very good model for things this complex, although I know people who have had pretty good results publishing books that way.

            I'm not sure what the point was about the "gig economy." I don't know anyone who's doing a gig job because they *chose* to or think it's a sustainable idea. But it's now just how the "job creators" have decided the economy's going to be structured. Even jobs that used to be regular, salaried positions are increasingly "contractor" jobs with no benefits. I don't blame millennials for that any more than I blame raccoons for the existence of trash cans.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: You can tell your kids...

      If not 2014, for that's when the ZX Vega, the one that actually shipped, appeared for crowdfunding.

      It's the "the people involved had successfully done this before" factor that makes this saga so unusual, I think.

  2. mastershake
    FAIL

    Speaking of....

    ...vaporware Indigogo projects, how's that Atari VCS coming along?

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Speaking of....

      I kind of want to chip in for one of its joysticks, which are available separately. But even $29 feels like too much of a risk. Also, the faddish LEDs are mandatory, which is a shame.

  3. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Be careful Kenny

    We've all seen South Park.

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      . . and it will happen again.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        So say we all....

        1. Benchops

          Please back my idea of

          a ZX Toaster

    2. General Purpose

      Re: This is important because...

      Anyone can look at the accounts filed at Companies House, though there's not much point. They're very brief and the accounts due in December 2018 haven't been filed.

  5. livin' thing
    Thumb Up

    It was worth every penny...

    For the entertainment.

    1. cat_mara

      Re: It was worth every penny...

      I dunno, I think if I'd wanted to see a big pile of money set on fire, I'd have watched that KLF documentary again. The music was better (no disrespect to Messrs Galway, Follin, Whittaker et al.)

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Re: It was worth every penny...

      Especially for those of us wise enough to entirely avoid a concept that screams scam and lo and behold is.

      1. Michael Strorm

        Re: It was worth every penny...

        The original (plug-into-the-TV) Vega console was successful, so it wasn't unreasonable to assume that this one wouldn't be.

        There's also the fact that the Vega+ (like the Vega) was only ever meant to be an emulator rather than a hardware-level recreation anyway, so it was already a solved problem; there must be countless low-powered systems that can run Linux or Android and an emulator on top of that. If- as I'm guessing- there are companies in China use these as the basis of pre-existing cheap, generic handheld designs, then that's practically an off-the-shelf solution.

        It's not like the Vega+ looks much like the original Spectrum (unlike the original Vega's bizarre parody of the original Spectrum design or the proposed Spectrum Next's "Plus"-inspired design). Stick a rainbow flash and "Sinclair" logo on an existing design and it would have worked within the £500,000 budget.

        In short, there's no reason the Vega+ shouldn't have succeeded. Its problems had nothing to do with hardware and everything to do with business politics, power-grabbing, infighting and incompetence.

  6. Giles Jones Gold badge

    There's a lot of very intelligent people involved, which just goes to show that it takes more than academic qualifications to deliver a product like this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ "which just goes to show that it takes more than academic qualifications to deliver a product like this"

      The product was not delivered perhaps if more qualified people had been in control then the product might have been.

      In reality lack of qualificiations means that you do not have any bits of paper to say you have a clue about anything, that being said you may still be an expert even if you look like a dunce.

      1. Grease Monkey

        Intelligent? On what do you base this?

        Certainly the statements and actions of several of the people involved over the last few years would seem to imply pretty much the opposite.

        Most academic qualifications only provide evidence of hard work and perhaps average intelligence.

        1. Giles Jones Gold badge

          Well, they are friends with Clive 'Mensa' Sinclair, so I imagine he would generally hang around with people who are smart.

          But by being academics, they have no practical experience of the manufacturing process, testing etc.

          1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

            “But by being academics, they have no practical experience of the manufacturing process, testing etc.” — just like Clive Sinclair was with his products. Yes, some of them were very successful, but that was *despite* shoddy designs, dubious marketing practices (28 day delivery, anyone?), inadequate testing, poor product quality and nonexistent customer service. Am I the only one who thinks that much of what “uncle Clive” did in the late 70s and early 80s was basically not really that good, even considering the nascent state of the computer market? His computers were cheap for a reason...

            1. J. R. Hartley Silver badge

              We don't diss Sir Clive.

            2. werdsmith Silver badge

              What Clive did was make it possible for me to buy and own a little computer (which came off the shelf at WHSmith, no delivery delay) and start experimenting and programming, and join in the movement. If BBC Model B had been the only choice I would have been priced out. Thanks to that kick start. I had a lucrative career.

              For a while nothing matched ZX products for value,

              1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

                I agree - the ZX products offered excellent value. What they did was get a generation of kids interested in computing. But don't forget just how bad they were, even by 80s standards, especially the early ones of each model. Full of corners cut, and compromises.

                1. werdsmith Silver badge

                  Only hindsight shows them as bad, at the time there was nothing for me to compare them to. Indeed I have refurbished a ZX81 recently and find it to be a superb piece of thrift engineering.

                  If that was what it took to democratise the microcomputer then I consider it only a good thing.

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                Trollface

                "For a while nothing matched ZX products for value,"

                This is why I'm surprised no one has tried selling a RasPi properly embedded in a keyboard with all the ports routed and available on the back edge of the k/b case along the lines of a Speccy or C64 (see what I did there?)

                1. werdsmith Silver badge

                  It's available embedded in a laptop with a screen, the PiTOP.

          2. Tomato Krill

            "Well, they are friends with Clive 'Mensa' Sinclair, so I imagine he would generally hang around with people who are smart."

            Unwarranted and I hope inaccurate implicit accusations of elitism by Sinclair aside, this is clearly false logic. I'm a genius and yet I'm hanging around on here with you lot...

  7. BebopWeBop Silver badge
    Holmes

    Refunds

    Good luck with that. Mystic Meg tells me that the only people benefiting have either taken the money and run, or are lawyers.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Refunds

      Yes, there is no money or assets to liquidate in RCL, lucky if the backers get a penny in the pound.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Refunds

        Yep, one of my customers went bust last year. First thing the receivers do is a rough calculation of the assets. Then by an amazing coincidence their fees are the same as the remaining assets.

        1p in the £ would be more than we're going to get.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Refunds

          Yep. I did some liquidation work. It's amazing how much they can fanny about over some of the stuff to justify their fees. The only people getting anything out of this are the liquidators, people working on behalf of the liquidators, and the people snapping up assets on the cheap.

  8. tentimes

    I doubt end users will see the money

    My guess is that the early directors lived life on the hog and squandered it. What is left will most likely go to commercial creditors at a discount compared to what they are owed.

  9. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Crowdsourcing works well for some things, but I no longer "kick in" to technology projects. Too many failures to deliver.

    What typically happens is the pitch is for an intriguing idea that is "a prototype". The money floods in from interested people, and then the project owners start using the cash to do R&D instead of bringing their prototype to market.

    Usually (but not always) the people involved have only the purest motives, but they have gone off-message - sometimes without realizing it - and the project is in jeopardy from that point on.

    Projects collapse for a variety of reasons, but tech projects are the ones that suffer most from built-in scope creep.

    In my opinion.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      I am delighted with my Planet Gemini. I have used my judgement and swerved Planet Cosmo, but the Gemini is used daily as a pocket Linux device.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: I am delighted with my Planet Gemini.

        Wish I could say the same for my Peachy Printer.

    2. Mongrel

      Re: Bah!

      There's also the fact that the backers are, generally, unqualified to judge the viability of the item being produced, for every Pebble watch there were hoards of Skarp laser razor, gravity lights, magic water bottles or solar roadways.

      It just seems that far too many projects are led by designers who take one concept that they barely understand then produce shiny demo videos while assuming that everything else is a trivial engineering problem.

      The other problem is the project team having limited business acumen, which is what this one looks like, so they fumble pretty much everything (good round-up here > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkvOlE8qDB0&t=3s It doesn't look like they started off wanting to scam people, but the bad design decisions & infighting just took them further and further away from producing anything useful

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: limited business acumen

        That was the beginning of the avalanche of suck that nearly swallowed Chaosium during the "Masks of Nyarlathotep" and "7th Edition" near fiascoes.

        What started out as (I imagine) genuine projects became damn near Ponzi schemes until a rescue team stepped up to the plate.

        The second edition of Eclipse Phase is looking to me like it is stalled despite assurances of progress. The updates are full of everything except decent progress reports on the actual product backed. One of the PMs got into it with me on Twitter recently when I expressed my frustration over the amount of blither about cats, Macbooks, Gencon and pretty much anything except when we might actually see the book, assuring me that people "like and want" to see that sort of "content" in an update.

        My take? It isn't a good sign when the PMs want to use the KS forum for anything but progress reports.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bah!

      IMHO crowdfunding works when someone has already a real product design ready - or almost - and needs money to start making final prototypes/pre-production, and a first batch. If someone just has an "idea", and still needs to make a workable building design from scratch, there are good chances the idea may not go anywhere.... and probably most money will be burnt trying to found a workable design.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Bah!

        "If someone just has an "idea", and still needs to make a workable building design from scratch, there are good chances the idea may not go anywhere...."

        I'll chip in with my tuppence here.

        Crowdfunding anything where the manufacturing side is non standard (ie most tech products) means adding another complex layer to the whole process, one which if mistakes are made can swallow all the funding. This is obviously high risk, even if the people running are experienced in manufacture.

        Crowdfunding something where the bulk of the work is on the creative side, with the production being costly but one off, is less risk. It's less risky for things like a movie or a series, more risky for software, as the goalposts are harder to move for the former.

        Personally I've only crowdfunded/prepaid for projects where I have enough faith in the people behind it to know I'll either get something I want from it, or the money went to a good cause.

        Usually this is books or artwork for me. I never get quite what I expect, but that's what you get for hiring an artist :D

        My "worst" crowdfunding experience was paying for a chaps first novel up front. He ended up spending all the cash on meth, having a complete breakdown, jail, rehab, then a McJob. Then he started writing again, so about four years late I got a collection of short stories and a letter of apology/explanation, which functions nicely as an authors foreword. Then a couple of years later the promised novel. Followed a few years later by his stab at YA.

        So delivered several years late, but 2-3 times the value over a decade.

        Quite frankly I'd rather be buying aspiring writers their booze and drugs rather than a new car for the lawyers and a new pool for the liquidators.

  10. Horaced

    Wind Up

    [transmission starts] Look, I've spoken with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov the sometimes earthbound former chess president on how exactly to deal with this post-end-game we're in with the vega+. He's clued me in to UFO specialist Steven Greer, who, amongst other extraordinary insights has assured me aliens have been dutifully disarming nuclear missile silos around the world and otherwise co-opting themselves into world affairs where needed. Applied to the fully disarmed Indiegogo I wondered if aliens had played any role in the drama. By some cosmic thought dissonance and quantum spewology I've discerened yes, on one occasion: when KFC ran out of the chicken. This was a direct retardment of supply intended to disarm Suzy (otherwise known as a supermassive black hole) from its energy supply. I then asked Dr. Greer why the aliens had been unsuccessful afterwards, being our technological overlords in the current climate and generally spectacularly difficult to get an image of outside of something blurry and grainy. "Horaced, I guess it's not always about the chicken. Or having your HDR on." He said, an unquoted and completely unsubstantiated made-up piece of nonsense by myself. But that's what cosmic dissonance can do to you. It can really warp your mind-space relationship. I'm unsure I was ever part of this campaign or anything now, except these articles keep coming, long long after the game and partial vega+ distribution. This post-end-game we're in with the vega+. He's clu - [transmission ends]

  11. Haileri$

    What happens

    if / when the creditor's ask is considerably less than the £513K raised? Does this essentially mean the baddies have won?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: What happens

      Baddies won? When the liquidator opens the lid on the accounts and sees zero assets and zero cash, they will start to look for any remaining scrap of value to pay their own fees, people will be left wondering who the baddies actually are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What happens

        people will be left wondering who the baddies actually are.

        There's a process for administration, and all creditors should be notified of the process, the fees, and timescale. If they don't like it they can object, but winding up SMEs isn't that well paid, so the benefit of asking for a different firm to be appointed is likely to be negligible. And if RCL has few remaining assets, then you're right, most will go to pay the administrators, then any secured creditors, such as the chap who got the court order against the company.

        In respect of the "baddies", it is worth noting that the Insolvency Service will automatically investigate RCL because a court has granted a winding up order. How rigorous the Insolvency Service will be I can't say, but as the nearest the Civil Service have to the Spanish Inquisition, the directors of RCL should be rather worried.

        1. Steve K Silver badge

          Re: What happens

          No-one expects the....Oh B@gger

  12. jason 7

    I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

    Look I had a Spectrum 48K Xmas 83. It was the best Xmas ever etc. I loved my Speccy.

    But deep down I knew it was crap. But at the time it was the best value for entertainment around. All your mates had them (except the poor sod who's parents bought into the education angle and got him a BBC B or worse...an Electron) and again we all knew it was crap.

    Stop buying this nostalgia crap. Just buy one on Ebay and spend the same 15 minutes dicking around with it before you go "this is a piece of crap, just like I remember it!"

    Better still just watch some of the YouTube Videos of some poor sod spending two weeks and a small fortune repairing some bit of 8/16bit junk only to have to push really hard to make it all sound worth it once they get it working for the last two minutes of the 30 minute video.

    It was fun...but it was still crap.

    1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Re: I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

      Jason - you are pretty much spot on. It's all crap. The games were crap and the system was crap. Even by 80s standards.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

        Jason - you are pretty much spot on. It's all crap. The games were crap and the system was crap

        Have to disagree. Z80 CPU was not crap, neither was the system that enable me to learn to program assember-> machine code. That "crap" was the kickstarter (npi) that started my entire career.

        The games were just a bonus.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

          I've found the z80 simulators very useful for teaching about how computers work. and Visual6502 as well.

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

      Those YouTubers sound to be like they're exercising their electronic diagnosis and repair skills in pursuit of a tangible goal, while providing a record of what they did that might help to improve the abilities of others. It doesn't sound any less reasonable of a way to spend time than e.g. working on an open source project which likely won't ever have more than a handful of users. It's also a thousand times more interesting than the usual YouTube stuff of people recounting or enacting perfectly ordinary events as though they were Beowulf, pausing only to gurn.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

      I was just going to write something very similar, yeah I loved my spectrum, yes it was crap, no I don't want to re-live it, five minutes on Elite Dangerous or Red Dead Redemption or Fallout and and desire for beep-beep spectrum games quickly put to rest.

      So I don't know who funded this crap, the same idioits that are buying vinyl I imagine.

      Sure, keep the old retro kit working for historical reasons,, by all means emulate it on modern hardware as a hobby, but try to make money out of it, no way.

      1. jason 7

        Re: I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

        Thinking of doing a Kickstarter to recreate/emulate a plate of fish-fingers, baked beans and mash!

        If we get more than the funding needed I will create a Angel Delight emulator too.

        Mugs aplenty!

        1. Chris Jasper

          Re: I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

          Butterscotch Angel Delight...?

        2. hoofie

          Re: I can't stand this nostalgia junk recreating junk.

          Angel Delight??? Take my money, take my money !!!

  13. This post has been deleted by its author

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