Ah, takes me back...
The nostalgia... I'm especially looking forward to the 1980's style delivery date promises: this year; next year Q1; next year Q2, next year Q4 etc etc.
Sir Clive Sinclair has in just three days tin-rattled his way to over £160,000 towards production of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega+, described breathlessly as "the world’s only hand-held LCD games console with 1,000 licensed games inside that can also connect to your TV!!". Following the success of the similarly crowdfunded …
I remember getting the zx spectrum with 6 game pack. Testing my memory I remember "make a chip", "Horace goes skiing", a hunter game where you played a small animal, chess, a racing game (with 3 tracks!) and something else that I cant remember. Oh and a demo tape that had an arkanoid clone.
Downvote away, I don't care...
It's hard to take anything this owl* comes up with seriously. Remember the C5 and how well that did? I'd be willing to bet any money the same will happen with this. Is there really that much demand for it?
* He looks somewhat like an owl.
I don't think the C5 - or indeed this console - are "visionary" at all. It's just an example of an item very few people actually want.
Clive Sinclair seems good at coming up with ideas for "stuff" but unfortuantely it's not stuff that people (the market) actually wants to buy!
The C5 was a vehicle which nobody wanted. This is a console, which very few people are likely to want enough to buy.
So it might well appeal to geeks and Reg readers. But it begs the question, what's the business-case for producing them? It just seems like something that will be a massive loss! Which is a strange concept indeed for a man who's supposed to be quite clever. Lose money? Oh ok then sounds great(?!).
You said that Sinclair didn't make stuff that the market wanted to buy.
Regardless of financial data, Sinclair could barely make their ZX81 and Spectrum fast enough to satisfy the market.
Before that the Cambridge Scientific was also in demand but took months to fulfil.
But you'd need to go back 35+ years to remember it all.
So LOL indeed.
The C5 wasn't a horrendous idea, but the execution was horrid. It was a pedal assisted transportation device that could be ridden without a license, so theoretically there was a market for it.
Unfortunately it was completely impractical and frightening to drive in traffic. My uncle gave it a quick go and found it far too scary when cars were around.
If Sir Clive had managed to make it closer to car sized (say sub Smart car size) with a riding position that meant you weren't dwarfed by other cars, who knows, it might have managed to get somewhere.
Sinclair never 'invented', he had a knack of looking at a desirable product - and making a version that was an order of magnitude cheaper, for only a slight detrimental removal of functionality.
The Spectrum was possibly the worst of the "home computers", but this was massively outweighed to me at least, by being the only one I could afford. Without Clive, I'd have had nothing.
Why I'd want to but this thing, when practically *anything* I could buy today for less could do the same better is a mystery. Sole selling point is nostalgia.
Well exactly. Whenever Clive came up with something people did want, it was technically infeasible, and whenever he came up with something that was technically feasible it was in general worse than someone else's product.
We all dreamed of having a pocket TV, today, with 4G and smart phones 42 years later, we have it, but it says Samsung on it.
the C5 made no sense in any country where it had to share roads with other vehicles
to be honest it made little sense anyway - the battery charge was insignificant, while the seating position was such that pedaling was uncomfortable, inefficient and very very slow - and gave you a crick in the back.
If the design had been any use, the modern generation of electric cycles would have copied it. As they've not, then the C5 design was clearly a botched dead end.
MyffyW :"C5 has since been eclipsed by a plethora of electrically-powered scooters taking the elderly and infirm to and from the shops"
And they drive on pavements. The C5 was a road vehicle Well, supposed to be, only the suicidal would actual take one on the road and few of them did it twice. Most of us checked the flimsy plastic construction, noticed your head is below window level in surrounding cars and refused.
An absolutely idiotic, dangerous product.
There's a fine line between success and failure. Sinclair spent a long time slackwiring that line before he fell. A bit of luck with one box of components bought on the cheap and he too could be miss-advising apprentices and pretending to be some kind of guru, or if Gates hadn't sold someone else's software to IBM he could have been selling overpriced mosquito nets to Africans.
Maybe the modern paradigm is a kickstarter campaign.
Sinclair never invented anything, he got smart people to assemble stuff into a package he could sell quickly and cheaply.
Large companies were flaying around trying to do the same, and adding massive markups that their overheads necessitated - and rocked up the the market with a price driven by their overheads, rather than building something to a price from the outset.
To me the modern Sinclair is a company like Xiaomi. Not "the best" - but packaging up good-enough to a price that's hard to compete against.
You can add the Zike to that failure. It was an electric bike launched in 1992. I rode it at Alexandra Palace bicycle show that year where a mate was exhibiting. On dismounting Clive Sinclair asked me what I thought. I said it was the worst handling bike I'd ever ridden and that it was a flawed design due to the fork and stem geometry, which would mean the sort of people that the bike was aimed at would find it hard to ride.
He didn't look happy! They only sold 2000 at £500 a pop and the Zike was discontinued 6 months later. Then again you've got to actually try in order to fail.
Another forgotten 'miss' was his earpiece FM radio, advertised alongside a picture of an old 10p for scale.
On the one hand, visionary, auto scan, long predating Bluetooth headsets, on the other premature, the technology hadn't caught up with the idea, so it was uncomfortable and kept falling out.
The point is he's had a few goes at bringing madcap shit to market, and sometimes caught a tailwind and bit of luck. I like that he isn't giving up.
If he'd invested in property like Sugar (where he made the bulk of his net worth, fortunate timing) he'd probably be in a similar space. I mean, Amstrad made a load of old bollocks too, and that e-Mailer phone thing was just awful. Hilariously, they used them as props on the faceless lobby assistant's desk set 'Lord Sugar will see you now' for a while.
At least the UK can still build it's own rail links and nuclear power stations.
Because they get away with repainting and renaming the repainted messes you mean?
What did they call Calder haul? Overhaul? Long haul? Haul too far?
Hang on... that was a joke wasn't it?
LOL <bit slow this morni bloody hell is that the time. Oh shit another day wasted. Fucking register wasting my bloody life. bastards!
*cough* *cough* Acorn *cough* *cough*
Nasty cough you have there!
Mind you, considering that the ARM came from Acorn (and Acorn was started in part by people from the original Sinclair) I suppose it's worth noting.
The only thing that bugs me with this design is the atrocious "D-Pad". It looks like it will be four buttons rather than a proper d-pad and I've never really liked that. Mind you, most Speccy games were played from a joystick if you had one and the keyboard if you didn't. I certainly like this idea better than the original Vega idea.
I'm concerned about that crappy four-buttons-for-one-thumb direction controller too. If one can't quickly and accurately toggle between pressing a single key and that key with an adjacent direction, without releasing the common key, a great tranche of those GAZEEELION titles will be abjectly unplayable. Including many of the better ones. The mere loss of precision alone, compared to operating with a dedicated digit always poised over Q, A, O, P and M/[SPACE], was enough to make many of the best designed-for-keyboard-control games unplayable with a joystick.
I'm afraid I can smell another nice idea marred by poor attention to detail :(
If anyone associated with the project is reading: Get a cunningly-thought-out precision eight-direction pad into the design or it WILL be useless. The direction controller is pivotal. ;o) If we can't get the mad duck out on the first day of playing Chuckie Egg, you have failed.
And NO... making it unplayable does NOT make it more fun.
I also remember the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum all of which were hugely successful and, arguably, single-handedly kick-started the UK's home PC market.
They were also the reason that the console crash wasn't nearly as big a deal in the UK. Between the Speccy, the Commodore, etc, we still had plenty to play.
The spectrum cassette interface was a major technological advance. The black and yellow stripes gave an indication of data transfer.
Not really. It was just a slight improvement over what came before on the ZX81 where the whole screen did that when you were loading a tape. It's just that the Speccy kept its text area clear when loading so you could have something displayed. And don't get me started on the ZX80!
On the acorn atom it sometimes took several attemps and a half hour later to realise you had not plugged the audio cable in.
A little unfair to compare the Atom with the Spectrum given the difference in age. The Spectrum's actual rivals were systems such as the BBC Micro and the various colour Commodore machines of the 8 bit era and each did its bit to overcome the problems of the older machines such as the Atom, the ZX8x series and the Pet.
They had that sorted by the time we moved onto the BBC Micro though. That was an elegant design for a tape interface for the time.
some games had multiloaders though (like renegade) so you had to make good copies of the tapes. We used to go to John Menzies on a Friday, buy a game each (4 of us) and a blank C90 at the same time. Go to each others houses and play/copy, my tape to tape was a bit cheap and wasn't as good as my mate with a proper hifi.
You didn't know how to copy tape cassettes. It was an art form back in the day using some cruddy Hi-Fi equalizer...
I did that with my ghetto-blaster, wich sported a double tape deck and a graphic equaliser. This simple setup allowed me to
pirate copy dozens of games without an issue*.
An exception was a game called 'Star Paws', which I finally deduced was using the length of unused tape at the end and the beginning of the tape as a proof of being an original. I wasted many hours of my life cracking that nut, and enjoyed every minute! :-)
My iron was a C128, but I copied for friends program tapes from most major systems.
The graphic equalizer would have had zero effect on tape to tape recordings on a ghetto blaster. Equalizers sit in the signal chain just before the power amp. Even if there was an effect it's unlikely to have improved things - the signal isn't supposed to sound pleasing to your ears, there are discrete tones in use to convey data - all that matters is that they are discernible above the noise floor of the medium.
I seem to recall some games were terrible because they used "turbo loaders" (increased baud rate) and entirely didn't bother with error correction, so even the original cassette was hard to load.
Using a Multiface One to deal with - (ahem) - creating backup copies, worked much more reliably because it just dumped the RAM image out.
and entirely didn't bother with error correction, so even the original cassette was hard to load.
Nor did the original Speccy format. It just recorded an additional byte (or maybe just a bit) at the end of the data stream which when you counted the number of set bits made the total odd or even or somesuch. That's why you never found out about a bad load until right at the very end. At least the beeb format split the data into blocks and checked each block.
The original speccy format was 'reet crude'. When recording it toggles the output signal on/off. The interval between each transition indicates if it's a 1 or a 0. After eight transitions you've got a byte. After 8192 transitions you have 1kB. No blocking, no error correction. Just a stream of bits.
I was 13 when the Spectrum 48k came out.
I was a bit of an electronics tinker back then.
At 14, I worked out what frequencies were used on the tapes, and built an in-line multi frequency band pass filter to try and remove background noise between the tape player and recorder.
Took a while to sort it out, but once done, made perfect 'backup' copies of games :-)
Happy days, although Manic Miner background music still haunts me to this day!
poke 23609, 6 gives you a nice beep as you type. Oh and I was wrong about the key for 'USR'. It's actually 'L'.
On this emulator it's:
* Select 48 BASIC.
Randomize usr 1302
Well I never knew that! I knew about 1331 and the format because I spent a happy week writing my own turbo loader for laughs but never discovered 1302.
On a related note I've always credited The Sinclar Spectrum ROM Dissasembly (PDF) as one of my landmark reads. I will always remember the moment that I realised why you could use the most significant bit of a mantissa to hold the sign flag. A little light bulb glowed bright in my little head back then :)
That and the eponymous Zacks bible Programming the Z80 (also PDF) between them kindled my interest in programming. Not so much 'doing something clever' as that involved a lot of work. More the idea of 'being the perfect servant in the back room'.
From changing the world by helping to put computers in every home, and ahead-of-its-time projects like the C5, to an overpriced, me-too portable emulator console.
I guess the draw here is the "1000 licensed games" (which don't seem to be listed, so hard to say if they're worth it), otherwise you can buy a portable android games console for less money, and install one of the spectrum emulators from the Play store (and have many more options besides the speccy games).
I wish Sir Clive all the best, though.
ElReg seems like the place people will know about this...
YEars ago I remember reading about the Sinclair Black Watch, which had lots of problems with the plastic of the case refusing to bond to the plastic of the strap. So Sinclair sent it off to an adhesives specialist to find a solution. The replied (some time later) by sending Sinclair a watch and strap held together with a bolt.
Annoyingly, I can't find anything about it on the internet. Does anyone know anything else about it?
The casing was impossible to keep in one piece. It was made from a plastic which turned out to be unglueable, so the parts were designed to clip together. The clips didn't work either and the problem was turned over to a subcontractor. Sinclair later (much later) received a small box on which was written, "We've solved the problem of the Black Watch!". Inside was a Black Watch with a half-inch bolt driven though it.
I still have my black watch,and what's more it works as well now as it did when it was new. (sadly).
In 1974 Prof Eric Laithwaite gave the RI christmas lectures attended by clive sinclair (and by me!). Laithwaite had a bee in his bonet about gyroscopic anti-gravity. In the new year CS set up two guys in a room at the st Ives rivermill playing with gyroscopes until some wag pinned a fake letter on the company notice board.
Dear Sirs, I recently purchaced a Sinclair Anti-gravity belt from Dixones for 39.99. All was going well until, at a height of 50 fee, one of the two hearing-aid battery clips (enclosed) flew out of the case....
The project was quietly cancelled.
My dad's mate had a Black Watch. I think he got the Build It Yourself option from the pages of ETI: he was an electronics boffin in the MoD so was a dab hand with the soldering iron.
Biggest problem then was that in the 1970s shirts were often mafe of nylon. Which caused static and would fry the watch.
I remember the reviews of the Scientific Calculator in another electronic magazine of the time where the errors on the trig functions were reported to be 33%.
No, I think you'll find you backed a develoment project that should it pan out may result in you being "rewarded" with a white model - assuming they are able to make it in more than one color.
The places where one can drive a tractor-trailer rig through your expectations with this capital raising model are many.
".Do you have an iPhone? Logical progression."
Actually an interesting point, I wonder how 40-somethings map from computer platform to phone platform?
For instance, is there a correlation between Sinclair owners and Android users? BBC Micro/Acorn and Blackberry? Commodore and Apple?
El Reg, this is a genuine request to set up a poll to see if there are correlations! It's not 'big data', it's barely 'modest data', but could be a bit of fun.
1981, I was 12.
ZX81, then 16k ram pack, then thermal printer.
48k zx spec
c64, with commodore printer / plotter
Amiga 500 1.3
Amiga 1200, blizzard 1220 and 68030 co-pro
then amd k5 pr166 (first & last amd ownage)
Intel p1 233
Intel p2 300
Intel p3 450
2 voodoo 3 cards SLI (24 meg of gfx ram!!!!!)
Numerous Nvidia cards.
Wont touch AMD
Current I7 720qm (5 year old laptop with a win score of 5.9 and that's 'cos its a crappy sata HD, the CPU scores 7)
1st phone was an alcatel OT View, then a modded bosch 508 with coconut case and blue leds (that WAS a stonking phone), then all nokias including the bomb proof 6250, now own nokia n70, n8, n95, lumia 820 lumia 930. one android tablet I was given as a present. Used to play boom beach.
Never owned anything apple, never owned an android phone...
> between Sinclair owners and Android users? BBC Micro/Acorn and Blackberry?
Well, I had (in succession) a:
Spectrum (at the same time, and for much less time than, the BBC)
Then got my first PC - a blazing fast 386sx-25 with 4MB RAM and an 80Mb HD..
I've had iPhones and Android phones. I've never had (and will never have) a Crackberry.
There is a long running argument regarding emulation and whether it's better than the real thing. Sometimes it is if the hardware or game is stupidly expensive/rare/too big to put in your house, sometimes it isn't. And the times where it isn't better is when the original hardware is still stupidly cheap, the games are cheap and bountiful, and it doesn't take a lot to make them run or store.
The Spectrum falls in to the latter camp. It's still relatively cheap when compared to other micros of the time. The BBC Micro commands upwards of £80 for a good one. I bought a Spectrum 48k last week for £30. In it's original box. It may even be an Issue 1 although I haven't opened it up yet to find out. It's actually tiny, taking up no more space than a book, and it isn't too hard to download a game for it and stick it on your phone and play it through the Speccy. It'll also work on modern LCD/LED TV's although you need to tune it in via the analogue port - standard behaviour.
The problem this device has, for me, is that it offers absolutely nothing of value to the end user. Yes you can play it on the go, yes it looks nice, but that's it. Most of the people who like these things have a smart phone, and there are PLENTY of emulators around that can do the job this can. And there are several add ons that give you a joystick and buttons to play not just Speccy games but C64, Mega Drive, N64 games etc. And for those who don't like mobile games, you can pick your emulator of choice for your OS of choice.
If you want the proper experience, just go on eBay and pick up an old Speccy and do it properly. You can replace the membranes for £10(ish) and various other easy modifications like using composite AV out instead of the RF unit. Do it properly if you do it at all.
Convenience, and accuracy. I dug out my old MSX and soldered up a cable to connect a proper tape player (lost the data recorder). First problem : 'mono' is supposed to be the left channel, but one game tape had recorded it on the right.. Then, Manic Miner loaded It looks as I remembered it, it played as I remembered it, the sound - the sound was appalling. The load time, five minutes of waiting. Probably easier to run in an emulator.
Likewise, I have a retro gaming PC - it has an S3 Savage 4 (accurate DOS scrolling), a Soundblaster AWE32, and two different Roland music modules. Running games with the proper Roland music and responsiveness of the original system is better than running it in DOSBox, but a lot more difficult. In that case it's worth making the effort, at least for me.
Take Commander Keen 4, though, and I can't tell the difference between the real thing, and DOSBox emulation. Eventually it won't be worth using the original hardware, plus emulators can save state, useful with difficult games.
I still have a Torch.... basically a BBC Micro + CP/M computer in a case with colour monitor.
heavy beast. Anyone know what it might be worth?
Also have boxes of un-opened ZX-81 stuff, software, bit and pieces.
and an Altair 8800 that worked the last time I powered it up, 20 years ago. ;-)
And all the C64 repair parts anyone could ever want.
What...? This isn't Craigslist? Who knew?
That and 'Blue Danube' from Elite and whatever the music was from Gauntlet. All of which I played for many, many, many hours. Gauntlet was the only tragedy though, given a tape load error when I'd got to level 92.
The other game I played which burned a soundtrack into my head was TIE Fighter.
I've not played a PC game in years, although if a new version of TIE Fighter came out, I think I'd be forced to buy a nice graphics card and a joystick.
Why so many buttons? It looks like you're just slapping a Sinclair logo onto yet another one of those cheap-ass chinese retro handheld, while removing the ability to emulate the dozen of other 8- and 16-bit platforms.
You really need to provide other incentive than just a big bunch of games which you could download of WoS anyway.
Also, with the recent release of the Recreated ZX Spectrum Bluetooth keayboard, it's a sorely missed opportunity not to support Bluetooth, which would have allowed to do a bit more than playing games on this gadget.
Lastly, what I would really expect on such a device is an Atari joystick port, so you could plug an authentic joystick (my two favourites were the Competition Pro and the Konix) and retrieve those lost sensations.
I got something similar from a high street shop recently with about 20 Megadrive games on it, my 5 year old loves it and it's pretty much fool proof as she turns it on and there are the games, no internet connectivity, no worry about her dropping it (this thing is bomb proof) and it's got nice simple controls.
Yeah I could be skeptical about Sir Clive doing this but honestly I think he's onto something, I'd be far happier with my kid playing old speccy games than half the trash on the kindle store.
It looks closer to a Playstation, or the Tapwave Zodiac (still have one of those, such lovely hardware). The Lynx (which I also have, specifically the smaller, later revision) only has one set of direction buttons and is a lot more bulky, not least because it can run on six AAs.
The Lynx was a lot better, full stop. Possibly the Z80 in the speccy was faster than the 6502 in the Lynx for some operations, but the plethora of custom support chips led to some excellent games for the Lynx. It's still the only handheld which runs Chips Challenge; there was a speccy version of that too, but I bet it wasn't much cop. Gates of Zendocon, California Games, Slime World, Awesome Golf. Great console.
The 6502 in an Atari Lynx is a 65SC02 and, being clocked at 4Mhz, is probably roughly twice as fast the Z80 in the Spectrum. But it doesn't need to be because the unlike pre-+2A Spectrums the Lynx has a double buffer, and unlike all of its contemporaries it has a scaling hardware blitter with some basic vector drawing capabilities and a maths coprocessor for multiply and divide. It has to surrender the bus for the former but can run in parallel with the latter.
These are some of the benefits a machine can accrue by being launched seven years later.
But the Spectrum games are better.
I have a few Atari Lynxs, the first gen is big enough and heavy enough to have sat on your bedside table to be used as a bludgeoning weapon in the case of a break-in, and it wouldn't get the attention of the police in the same way a baseball bat by your bed would.
I also have a pile of Sega Gamegears and a mountain of cartridges for them, occasionally I'll scour up 6 charged AA's and give them a whirl. Fun for a while but the biggest letdown of the handhelds of that era is the LCD screen quality, very poor viewing angles and low resolution. The phones/tablets of today have in comparison astonishingly good screens, but what they lack are the physical control buttons needed for 'proper' gaming.
I'd pitch in for one of these new fangled Spectrum handhelds but after spending lots of time on the Android emulator Marvin with a bunch of games and a bluetooth games controller I realised nostalgia isn't what it used to be. Plus I still have a working ZX Spectrum +2 :)
Forgotten what it was called now, but I had a snapshot type device that dumped the Spectrum memory to the Sinclair microdrive.
As this could work at any point in time, it meant you could also save your game progress, as you just hit a button, and it froze the system. You could then dump the memory state to the microdrive at that point in time, mid game, and reload again later.
Hmm, it's going to bug me what the thing was called now!! Anyone any ideas?
It was a small box, plugged into the rear expansion, and had a single red button on the top. Hit that and the speccy froze, and you got an on-screen menu that let you peek and poke memory, save/load to/from the microdrive, and various other bits.
As much as I love the idea, my problem with both the vega original and this, aside from issues of quality and price is the promise that you can play all 14,000 spectrum games
How would you play a game that uses the full keyboard?