No, still not April 1st...
The Spectrum fanbois at Retro Computers have enlisted the help of Sir Clive to launch a new crowd-funded Spectrum clone. The Sinclair Spectrum Vega is a console that plays games from the '80s – complete with piezo speaker-generated sound and attribute clash. The Vega is being marketed by Retro Computers Ltd, a Luton-based …
"Blu tac/velcro/cable ties or any leading brand of two-part, industrial strength adhesive"
None of which ever worked, as I remember only too clearly!
Although the firmware that decreed that the RAM pack would only wobble just before your 10 minute save to tape had completed was pretty impressive for the time.
A loose internal connection meant that my +3 (I know, and I'm sorry) was fixed by jamming a Rubik's Snake between the Multiface and (I think) the video cable.
After I sold it to my more technically-minded friend, he popped the case off and soldered the connection back together. I still think that folding the Snake to exactly the right shape was the more satisfying solution.
"Of course, it will have problems that can only be fixed with the addition of a dongle."
And slightly more seriously - a proper keyboard and Basic interpreter. Just wheeling out a spectrum clone as nothing more than a games machine completely misses the point of 80s 8 bit machines.
Although Sir Clive's definition of "28 days" in "allow 28 days for delivery" was more flexible than his customers', even he never managed to stretch it to a year.
Also, I take exception to the article's tone (I'm cancelling my subscription, etc...). He's not making it himself. It's easy money, he gives it his blessing and if it sells he gets a cut, if it doesn't sell or the project folds then he's not really any worse off. If he decided to make life difficult for the project then that would generate bad publicity and people might not forgive him when he comes out with his portable jetpac(k) or whatever's next.
And supply will be severely restricted due to unanticipated excessive demand. The opportunity will be taken by someone selling a clone of the old BBC micro to push a few units.
This will also educate a generation of kids whose idea of a low level language means assembly and copy protection schemes are not thwarted by the always online internet DRM.
Now we only need a flamewar between Spectrum, BBC and C64 owners to complete the trip back to those golden times.
"And supply will be severely restricted due to unanticipated excessive demand. The opportunity will be taken by someone selling a clone of the old BBC micro to push a few units."
Why would I need a clone? The original one still works!
They should have done that 'cos there is already a Raspbian remix which allows you to emulate loads of old hardware. Then you could actually run all that old already paid for software.
In fact they would have gained a lot more credibilty by just selling the spectrum lookalike case with a decent keyboard. The 2 things which really let down the the ZX were the crap keys which only responded to 1 in 3 keypresses and as noted above, the crap video. Ignoring of course the overall reliability, the data storage systems and almost everything else about them.
Let me get this right:
They're making a thing, but they have absolutely nothing to put on it.
and they're hoping a few suckers will hand over rights to old game gratis on the promise that *some* of the profits will go to charity.
hey: If you give me a tenner, I'll give a quid to charity! Aren't I nice?
The original Speccy used an RF modulator (analogue TV signal), not RCA. You had to tune your telly in to the signal, just like any of the other 3-4 terrestrial analogue channels. If you were *really* lucky, it wouldn't clash with the channel already used by your video cassette recorder.
Not that I care, because I was a Commodore 64 lad, and we all know that the C=64 was better than everything. Also, only brats owned a BBC.
"Do you know if the BBC trademark is still being used, so maybe we can revive the Acorn BBC micro?"
Yes, I believe there's a broadcasting company around here somewhere that owns the BBC trademark (Acorn were using it under licence).
Ah yes. No doubt you are referring to that business with the Brown Boveri Company who took umbrage at the use of the term "BBC" to describe Acorn's beast back in the day, hence the hasty redesign of the logo on the Beeb. I think that company were taken over a couple of times since then so their use of "BBC" is likely to have lapsed by now.
As somebody else pointed out, however, there's still Auntie.
HEY!!! Who's been taking all my umbrage?
"it was when it came to PRO music (not shitty trackers)....."
That was only because the Atari ST came with built in midi ports, which are nothing more than serial ports with an opto coupler built in. A $15 box or $1 worth of parts and a soldering iron would fix that as well. It made it slightly easier to develop a midi sequencer on the ST and sell it knowing it would run out of the box.
As far as rock solid timing is concerend the amiga beat the ST hands down with it's two built in hardware timers. Add 4 hardware sound channels, 4096 original colours, 8 hardware sprites, hardware scrolling and a handful of custom chips to drive all that and more, and you leave the ST in a crackly squeeking pityful mess, calling for its mommy.
Oh I forgot to mention the pre-emptive multi tasking OS.
Just sayin' O:-)
(Just sucks the amiga crowd, or what's left of it, is such an insane bunch of freaks no one in their right mind would want to be associated with them...)
ST owners are always rather keen to argue that their machine had better "sound" because its built-in MIDI ports allowed one to *control* a keyboard costing hundreds- if not thousands- of pounds that may have sounded better than the Amiga's *internal* sound chip!
Let's disregard that one could do the same with a dirt-cheap serial-to-MIDI adaptor on the Amiga (*) and point out how odd it is that they never compare like with like (i.e. the machines' own sound capabilities).
Okay, so I lied about it being odd- the reason is quite obvious! :-) The ST's internal sound chip- ironically- was utterly primitive by 16-bit standards. It was a barely-improved version of the square-wave AY-3-8910 more commonly found 8-bit machines such as the Oric 1, Amstrad CPC and 128K versions of the Spectrum... and sounded like it too. Sample playback was only possible with processor-intensive "bit bashing" which wasn't practical in games, or indeed most apps (**).
Nope, it couldn't even play the much-derided sample "tracker" modules while rubbing its stomach at the same time.
(*) Credit to Atari; it was a clever move by them to include a MIDI port. The ST's poor internal sound didn't matter in that case, and the fact that the Amiga was expensive in its early days (and didn't have MIDI as standard, even though it was a cheap add-on) meant the ST gained traction as the first computer both *affordable* and *powerful* enough for GUI-based sequencer use off the shelf. But that was as much right-place-right-time as anything inherently good about the ST.
(**) The improved Atari STE supposedly had improved 2-channel Stereo sample support, but apparently didn't do it well. (Jez San, writer of Starglider wrote at the time:- "Stereo sound has been extremely lousily implemented. Only a few fixed sample rates are possible. Maths-intensive software routines will have to be applied to sample data if other frequencies are wanted.") The already-established Amiga didn't have this major limitation. Atari botched any chance the STE of gaining support by selling it at extra cost instead of making it the new base model anyway.
I lost years of my life to trackers, or rather a tracker: the wonderful OctaMED
8 bit sampler connected via the Parallel port, MIDI gear sequenced via the serial port and external MIDI i/f that you lucky Atari folks already had built in.
I still have all that gear. Nostalgic silliness preventing me from getting rid.
And from the left field comes the Elan Enterprise 128. I still have fond memories of the little joy-sticky thing with the at least half-decent full size keyboard, and a WHOPPING 128 kB of RAM. Even managed to program a discrete Fourier transform on it. It worked, ...., if you were very patient. Won't claim it was better than any other out there, but it shared several features with the Spectrum: Z80 processor, and only appeared WAY after the promised date. What was very nice is that like the Acorn Atom and Electron (we used many of those in the labs) you got the entire schematic, and many ports were properly buffered, so you could add your own external devices without risk of frying the computer.
Regarding this project: More keys might of course be added if they exceed their target by a sufficient margin
Back in the 80s, I was rocking a CPC6128 with 3inch internal floppy. It had a dedicated monitor, but we owned an add-on unit to convert it into a tuneable telly. And it actually came with a proper manual. I learned BASIC on that bad-boy, typing out 6+ pages of solid code by hand, to play something resembling arkanoid... Halcyon days.
"Brats all seemed to get a CPC with a colour screen."
Oh yeah? We got one 'cos my Dad was fed up with me taking over the TV with the Dragon32 and moaning about having to use the shitty BW portable in the kitchen when the match was on! Xmas came around and my old man had worked his nuts off to afford an upgrade to shiny a CPC464 with a colour screen, on condition it was available for anyone to use with the MiniOffice suite when letters and such like needed doing. Of course then there was lots of whinging about lack of games during the first 9 months until it started getting a decent set of titles and some other kids in my school also got 464's. I then had someone to copy and swa...ahem, discuss gaming strategies with by way of sharing the software!
ORIC-1 FTW. I had one of them and then the Atmos but after finding half the stuff for the Oric-1 didn't work on the Atmos I gutted the Atmos and stuck the Oric-1 board in it as the keyboard dug grooves in your fingers whereas the Atmos keyboard was a standard type and far better. IMO it was better than the other three however its problem was it was French so didn't do so well in Blighty.
wrong on two counts:
1) it was not better than the speccy or c64. It had only 8 colours, low resolution, odd colour attribute system and no vsync. The sound was better than the pre-128k speccy, but that's about it. It also had far fewer games, and a lot of the games it did have were poor.
2) it wasn't french. It was english, but sold better in france and was eventually bought by a french company.
I still have a soft spot for the oric, though. So much so that I wrote an emulator for it (oricutron).
The original Speccy used an RF modulator (analogue TV signal), not RCA.
As someone below pointed out, the connected for the modulator was RCA..
The feed into the modulator was composite. You could tap into that quite easily (especially if you had the "Saga 1" (IIRC) top case and keyboard - much nicer keyboard than the original!) and no more having to tune the TV into the damned thing.
It comes as no surprise to me that this project is using Indiegogo for the flexible funding option. This means the project runners will get your cash regardless of whether they meet their goal, making it a popular choice for scammers. Fake retro tech is one of the most common kinds of scam, so I strongly doubt this is on the level.
I thought that initially, then I looked at the people running the company and I recognised them from back in the day, so I have a reasonable degree of confidence that they will do what they say they will. It does seem to be a software emulation on a 3 chip ARM board, but it looks practical in both cost and technogy.
It does seem to be a software emulation on a 3 chip ARM board, but it looks practical in both cost and technogy.
Heh. An ARM board. Given Acorn's link there, this seems somewhat ironic.
The point is that given the number of Speccy emulators out there on so many different platforms, is there really a need for this?
Probably the "ear" socket, they had an odd "ear→ear, mic→mic" convention. (Least I thought it odd, I normally think of Line Out → Line In)
I have a Timex Sinclair 2068 which is basically a ZX Spectrum with some other bits, and a NTSC video encoder (since it was for the US market), and I recall this being mentioned in the handbook (which I also have somewhere).
If this had been a handheld console, with its own screen and battery pack, it might have been of some casual interest, even though you can get Spectrum emulators for a variety of phones and tablets. However, it isn't and therefore is a total waste of time and effort in my opinion.
I like the idea - as a nice simple semi-mass market clone... but would have rather seen a fuller version of the original keyboard. Also a little lower price as well perhaps. The C64-on-a-joystick managed to go for around £30 but perhaps the overall cost came less due to volume of production.
Thats going to be a fun one to face in court...
There is no way they will get permission to make a commercial product like that using all that (not so old) code, especially as you will probably find most of the titles people desire have been handed down from owner to owner and are probably all owned by Ubisoft/Activision/EA by now by acquisition.
I can't imagine those blood suckers being happy that their IP is being handed out commercially.
I really hope they have done their homework on this one. The whole business smacks of the Hyperkin Retron 5, a console that could play games from many of the old consoles of the 80s and 90s using emulation and control software that, so it seems, they should have asked about first.
Exactly.... I suppose the retort will be that "users can load whatever software images they legally own onto the system themselves".... in which case, why not run a bloody emulator in the first place if you're going to pirate the stuff.
At 100 quid this only makes sense if it comes with the software titles!
...what I'm getting for Xmas next year...
Last year someone got me a rather crappy looking sonic the hedgehog "plug it in the telly thing".
We got absolutely hammered and completed sonic 1, 2 and 3 in a single sitting. It was epic. Then it broke.
Wow, I'm now imagining an epic chuckie egg session...
We had a kid at our school who could play that with his eyes closed (iirc it blanked the screen on the 3rd or 4th go round the levels, and he would still continue playing it).
One of the other kids even got a game he wrote reviewed in Crash magazine. I still remember the maps for Sabre Wulf and Atic Atac in there.
I really want to like it, but the need for RCA is a pain in the behind. HDMI should of been the output on it, yes more hassle but really for the modern environment the best way. Or even due to the size of it make it a handheld!
Also while whining, FS 12?! Come on, QA OP were always the big control keys back in the day! (Yes I do see why they did it as it's written on the keys).
So yeah, I want to like it but wallet is staying in the pocket for now.
He recently did a 3 part series where he built a hand-held zx-speccy. 3d printed the keyboard, switchable ROMs, can load from tape or a phone etc. He most recently also built an Apple 1 laptop! Really interested stuff (I think) as he does everything from physical build, circuit boards, schematics, and programming, himself, and explains a bit about his plans as he goes along.
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GcwcyL9LgM
We used to call the Spectrum the 'spakky', but I suppose we can't do that nowadays in this brave new PC world.
Beebs rocked. I have 28 of them still!
P.S. I visited the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge the other day. They have Speccys and Beebs you can play with for real. If you have the skillz still.
I think they're really missing the point of the speccy with the exclusion of a keyboard. It's true that as kids we all played millions of games on the rubber-keyed wonder, but, a lot of us also *programmed* the bloody thing, both in Sinclair BASIC and Z80 machine code. It's actually the reason why a good chunk of us are employed in IT today, and the reason why we're here on this website reading the article. The inclusion of a keyboard would be an excellent opportunity to use it for programming, and, more specifically, would make an excellent computer to sit our children in front of to teach *them* programming. The problem with PCs and the like is that it's difficult to capture a child's imagination with respect to actual programming, since the things are so complicated. A kid in front of a speccy could pick it up in minutes. Show them how a FOR/NEXT loop works and then show them moving an asterisk across the screen. Show them INKEY$ and how to read the keyboard and move the asterisk around. Show them UDGs, PAPER colours, INK colours and they'd be totally hooked. Since it has an SD card slot, they wouldn't have to slum it with cassette players like we did as kids. I'm sure they'd be hooked.
This *could* have been a Pi beater (in terms of engaging the young in programming), but they aimed low and went for nothing more than a nostalgia games machine that will only have limited appeal to those that owned one as kids.
They missed it IMO.
I have to say this seems quite underwhelming due to the lack of keys. I doubt this will succeed if it turns out to be nothing more than an 80s video games console as opposed to an actual home computer like the original ZX Spectrum was.
Half of the fun with old computers like these was being able to get source code from magazines and the likes, entering it in yourself and seeing exactly what goes into writing software.
If Retro continue with what they've got for their prototype, I think they're missing out on an opportunity to succeed where the Raspberry Pi failed; getting kids interested in programming.
You can get a Raspberry Pi and an SD Card for about £30 and run all of your Spectrum games on the TV via the Fuse emulator. You can make it auto-boot the emulator if you like.
I know this because I do it and 3D-printed a case (or two) for mine - https://www.flickr.com/photos/pyramidhead76/15845903305/
But you obviously don't need the printed case to play the games...
....drifting off back to the time I assembled my own Atom and loved every moment of the 'BYOD' (build your own device) era. Then along came Cambridge Wars - Sinclair and his ex parners/employees fighting over ready made silicon wonders for every home and created generations of hardware blind fools.....pass the ear trumpet.....
You could just run FUSE on a suitably-cased Raspberry Pi. With a USB audio capture dongle, or one of those USB Walkman deeleys of the sort advertised in catalogues that fall out of cheap TV listings papers, you can even load your old Spectrum tapes into it.
But of course there is never just one right answer. And I do think this is cool, just because I grew up with 8-bit micros.
I hope they have other funding from venture capital or similar. 100K is a tight budget for production, injection moulding tools cost £5-10k *each*. The lack of a full Speccy keyboard seems foolish, and would probably be no cheaper anyway, the same number of tools and processes still have to be constructed.
Unfortunately the whole process is being spoiled by developers with no protection. 10 months late for another device i wanted is totally unacceptable and to add insult to injury they are offering retail at the indegogo price discusting. Insurance is now being offered to weed out the cowboys but why should you pay more. Ill be waiting for the retail vega if it happens. Crowdfunding will be finished in a few years time.
The problem with the Vega is the licencing of the games to run on it.
The game shown is an Exolon "style" game, not the original game by Hewson. It is fair and right that the developers should be paid for their work.
The Vega has been made by brilliant engineers, but the cost of a full size keyboard would be much more expensive and some games will need to be modified to use the limited keyboard unless a Bluetooth Keyboard can be attached.
Another problem is the TV connection. Presumably it will be a composite (yellow) cable which is fine but a piezo speaker is horrid. For 128k compatibility it should at least be a mono cable to the TV so you can adjust the volume or even ACB stereo from the AY chip with the beep mixed if they're really fancy. But in this day and age shouldn't it use an HDMI cable? How much would that alter the design and add to the unit cost?
I would personally prefer a 48k+\128k or +2 style keyboard.
At £100 a second hand laptop with a bunch of emulators may be better.
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