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 …

  1. SeanR

    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!

    1. Oh Homer

      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.

      1. ThomH

        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.

        1. VulcanV5

          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 ."

      2. Oh Homer

        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...


        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.

      3. ZenCoder

        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.

    2. J. R. Hartley

      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.

      1. Hairy Spod

        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

      2. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

        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.....


        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.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          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.

          1. Sceptic Tank Silver badge

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

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

          2. Dave 15

            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

          3. Anonymous Coward
            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.

        2. J. R. Hartley

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


          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.

        3. Bitbeisser

          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"...

        4. bish

          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.

          1. Eltonga

            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".

        5. Dave Bell

          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.

        6. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          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.

          1. bish

            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.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              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.

        7. Stabbybob

          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.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      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.

  2. ItsMeDammit

    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.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      A solid number 2?

      1. James O'Shea

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

      2. UKRobM

        A sloppy number two! :D

    2. Ashley_Pomeroy

      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).

  3. Aladdin Sane

    It looks


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It looks

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

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It looks

      It IS shit.

  4. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble?

    Oh Dear


    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.

    1. rmason

      Re: Oh Dear

      @ Rameses etc.

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

      1. Stoneshop

        in a massive box.

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

  5. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. monty75

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

      1. Gio Ciampa

        Be a damn sight cheaper if it were...

      2. Waseem Alkurdi

        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.

  6. Jess

    So an authentic Sinclair experience then?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      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.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        > they couldn't have been that crap.

        There was nothing to compare against.

        1. Steve K

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

          1. Gio Ciampa

            @Steve K

            + Oric-1/Atmos

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              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.

              1. graeme leggett Silver badge

                Re: @Steve K

                And while in Smiths, pick up a magazine with a Cassette tape stuck to the cover?

                1. Steve K

                  Re: @Steve K

                  @Graeme Leggett

                  Yes and also key in a scrolling Sin/Cos wave program on the demo ZX-81 beforehand!!

                2. heyrick Silver badge

                  Re: @Steve K

                  "And while in Smiths, pick up a magazine with a Cassette tape stuck to the cover?"

                  There was a magazine for the BBC range that either found tapes too expensive or too easily stolen, so they took to having a stabled insert that was basically a thin piece of plastic that you played on a turntable. The pre-teen me thought that was the coolest thing ever. I used to buy the magazine to listen to the recordings (mostly to annoy the parents, mind you).

            2. wallaby

              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

              1. flingback

                Re: @Steve K

                Makes two of us. It has pride of place on my lab desk and frequently provokes "what is *that*?" from visiting younger visitors!

              2. Gio Ciampa

                Re: @Steve K

                I had a C-16 as well, now I think of it (got it cheap somewhere - couldn't justify the cost of a C-64)

              3. Stabbybob

                Re: @Steve K

                For loading without tape, you might be able to find the audio files and play them via phone or PC into the Oric

          2. Pete4000uk

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

            1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

              "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...

              1. WallMeerkat

                Pi is halfway there. The problem is nobody is selling games for them in the shops.

                Imagine an era where you can buy a Pi game from your local retailer, comes in a little SD card, plug it in and play, just like you used to do with Spectrum/Oric/C64/etc.

                1. Teiwaz

                  comes in a little SD card

                  When I saw my first CF Card, I was expecting that to roll along at some point.

                  We should be at the point where you can wander into a shop and buy a book/Music album/Movie on the same memory storage type.

                  But because the media publishers of all the above would rather sit in their trees collecting nuts until progress starts to pass them by then they panic.

                  1. heyrick Silver badge

                    Re: comes in a little SD card

                    "We should be at the point where you can wander into a shop and buy a book/Music album/Movie on the same memory storage type."


                    So very much this.

                    I hunt the bargain bins for cheap DVDs. Once in a while a full price one if it's something a really like. Then I rip them to watch on the device of my choice (my phone). Why are we not at the stage of getting films on little SD cards? Pop it into a card reader, that in the OTG adaptor and we're good to go, right?...

                2. Charles 9

                  "Pi is halfway there. The problem is nobody is selling games for them in the shops."

                  Pi software won't be sold on high street until Pis are sold on high street. The bundling effect on which high street relies tends to require they have all the piece on hand.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Ace, Oric, tandy, sharp, timex.

          4. Steve K

            Sorry - I meant TI99/4a i think not TI-32!

        2. David Nash

          There was nothing to compare against

          Yes there was, there was Sinclair's earlier effort for one, the Mk14, which was similarly priced and much more primitive, and there were home and business machines from the US, some of which may have been better but were much more expensive and less suited for home geekery.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "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.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

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

          1. WallMeerkat

            I'd say the converse. Tweaking IRQs in DOS, vbrun200.dll errors in Windows 3.1.

            XP came along and turned PCs into fisher price toys.

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              XP abstracted stuff, but made it difficult to learn and understand PCs.

              Before you had to learn about PCs, even though they were pointlessly more complicated than e.g. Amigas or STs.

            2. heyrick Silver badge

              Tweaking IRQs in DOS

              Oh my god... Modem or mouse, but not at the same time. Second printer port, no trouble. Just a dozen tiny fiddly headers on an unmarked circuit board and you're there, except the documentation doesn't match the board so you can print, only the chip is set to translate everything to four bit EBCDIC sent on the parallel cable using a weird unheard of protocol that is the electronic equivalent of semaphore. Adding a network card was pretty easy in comparison, but the moment you add a CD-ROM the network dies never to be seen again. Since this is 10-base-2, I mean the entire network dies thanks to the conflict causing the card to spew endless gibberish.

              There was a day, once upon a time, when I got myself a crappy Pentium box with PCI expansion. It wasn't great, it probably couldn't divide by anything except zero, but expansion cards pretty much just worked as long as you had the drivers disc. I took some measure of satisfaction erasing that horrible horrible 486 box and those eternally damned ISA cards from reality with a very very large mallet. Apparently a mallet used for laying railways. I could barely lift it. But when I did, and dropped it right into the box with a lovely crunch....oh man, the grin on my face...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Voyna i Mor: Kids today don't even know ......

          ...much, about anything. Hell, they think that "Love Island" is entertainment. But a worrying question is whether easy access to easy to use IT is a cause of this shallowness, and therefore it is OUR fault.

          Here, have a Werthers whilst we contemplate that.

        3. Martin-73 Silver badge

          I can confirm that the original Sinclair computers were both shite, and awesome. Equally.

          The concept was awesome. The manuals were amazing. The quality control was.... unknown. Literally, they didn't understand the concept.

          My first Sinclair computer (a ZX spectrum+... the plus was 'plus something better than rubber keys but ONLY marginally) didn't work out of the box. Dixons diagnosed a dud power supply, and swapped it for one that only worked occasionally. Eventually my ham fisted attempts to put enough force on the connector to get the thing to start, caused the pin in the 9v connector to fall off. The second one (replacement after a screaming fit by my usually non demonstrative mother, who'd paid for it) worked flawlessly. And still works. Albeit with a few mods and a non-original PSU

          1. David Nash

            "first Sinclair computer (a ZX spectrum+"

            You were spoiled. You missed the real revolution - the ZX81, or for us real pioneers, the ZX80, flashing screen and all.

        4. TerryG

          Learning how to use blu-tack to hold the RAM pack in place for a ZX81 was the first small step on a journey that led me to now be working on multi-petabyte SAN systems

          1. defiler

            Learning how to use blu-tack

            From tiny acorns, and all that...

            That said, when I had Acorns I never had an ounce of trouble with them.

      3. Jess

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

        1. Mike Pellatt

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

          To say nothing of the black watch and the IC12. And the calculator. Those are what I remember Sinclair for.

          Travesties, all of them. As I've said before, Chief Dick Sinclair created the IC12 (rated 12W peak, hence the name) by taking a Plessey 10W peak rated IC amp and, errr, sticking a heatsink on it. That was his level of understanding of semiconductor thermal management. And how I learnt all about it the hard way, repeatedly blowing them up....

      4. DrBed

        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.

        Actually, Samurai / Elan / Flan / Enterprise was been that crap. Great project on paper, but when it went to production... utter mess.

        Guess who stands behind it? Same David "Vega+" Levy!

        If you missed it, here is the background (80's): "Micro Men" (Acorn vs Sinclair):

        1. Rob Crawford

          I owned a 128k Enterprise

          Apart from the shit case, even shittier keyboard and the damn thing being slower than you could imagine it was great.

          Oh except for the edge connectors for the monitor connection that meant most people blew up their Enterprises.

          Oh and the overheating problem, I never knew a heatsink that go so hot until pentium processors turned up.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'll wager

        a significant user base on here cut their teeth on a Sinclair / Timex computer.

        I did.

      6. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Oh, they were. I actually think it made the British better coders. How hard they had to work just to get the computers to do what they wanted.

        I think everyone who learns coding should learn it on an 8 bit micro. The lack of hardware power certainly forces you to code efficiently.

        That's not say I hated my spectrum. On the contrary, I loved it.

        1. Charles 9

          I'll pull you one better. In my Discrete Math course, we had to create programs on simulated Turing Machines. How's that for getting down to the nitty-gritty?

    2. Ashley_Pomeroy

      In Sinclair's defence, the original 16/48kb Spectrum was released in more-or-less finished form. I can't remember if it was on time, or not, and the key matrices tended to fail, but otherwise the original Spectrum was surprisingly polished for a Sinclair product. Presumably because there wasn't much to go wrong and the hardware was simple.

      It was the later QL and Spectrum+ that had problems, the former because development was rushed - which meant that the machine was released unfinished, and much later than promised - and the latter because the keys used to fall off!

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Why Sir Clive Sinclair’s corporate shareholder in RCL, Sinclair Research Ltd, has not intervened is a source of ongoing confusion

    If SRL voted with Andrews and Smith to kick Levy & Co. out and take their place, that would mean they have to spend money winding RCL up and become responsible for the debt while trading insolvent and possibly whatever else Levy's done in everyone's absence.

    I guess Clive couldn't be arsed with that.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Entertaining review but 4/10 seems a tad generous.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      I tried writing a justification for why I thought 4/10 was too high, but the more I thought about it, the more I agreed - the software works on a basic level (because it was ripped off, most likely) so the primary issue is the crap case. Knock a point off for having to remap keys to get some games to work and you have 4/10.

      1. ravenviz Silver badge

        I seem to recall that a key remapping function was quite common for games of the day.

    2. katrinab Silver badge


      got 1/10

      As far as the hardware is concerned, the Vega is a lot worse. Software, probably about the same, and software was why the toshiba got such a low score.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Regardless of the score, it must be one of the most scathing reviews that I have read on El Reg. Even thought the device is crap, the review made me laugh, so at least it will end my otherwise boring day on a good note...

        I agree that 4/10 appears to be a little over generous...

        Crappy feedback on the buttons : he he.

        Overall look : Ha ha ha ha ha.

        Painted buttons : Hey guys come over and see this article, its a killer...

        Thinking about those who invested in this : Rolls on floor, splutters, coughs, tears roll down cheeks and belly starts to ache...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        1/10 for a tosh

        that's too generous

  9. Red Bren

    FUSE in a plasticky box

    If you want a retro experience in your hand, just install an emulator on your smartphone!

    1. UKRobM

      Re: FUSE in a plasticky box

      Done that, but I find playing arcade-style games on a flat glass touch screen surprisingly difficult. I need tactile buttons, at least. Not buttons like on this POS though. Glad I got a refund though I had to fight for it.

  10. andy gibson

    Sir Clive's health

    "Why Sir Clive Sinclair’s corporate shareholder in RCL, Sinclair Research Ltd, has not intervened is a source of ongoing confusion"

    According to RCL:

    "It is no secret that Sir Clive Sinclair has been in poor health for some considerable time. Over this extended period, the current board of Retro Computers Limited have sought to support him at every opportunity in both his professional and private life. Having shared a personal friendship with some of the current board spanning several decades. It is with much sadness that we announce that it has reached a point where Sir Clive no longer looks after his own day to day affairs, and as his advisors have pointed out he has not been "doing much directing lately"."

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Sir Clive's health

      Yes, RCL throwing the old man under a bus because he's outlived his usefulness. So nice of them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sir Clive's health

        >> throwing the old man under a bus

        That reminds me of when I saw a guy in a Sinclair C5 in Exeter, pedalling furiously to avoid being run over by a bus.

        1. David Nash

          Re: Sir Clive's health

          I don't recall the C5 being pedal-powered...was it?

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: Sir Clive's health

            Yes. The C5 electric motor could only go relatively slowly. If you wanted more speed, or if you hit a particularly steep hill, it also had pedals. I don't think it was actually powered by a washing machine motor, but I think it was a similar size/output.

            They were actually terrifying. You'd have thought that something that low to the ground would be stable, but even cornering at a brisk walking pace had it leaning over. And because there was no wheel, but steering levers behind your seat - you were in a very unatural position and felt horribly unbalanced. Being so low and so off balance on a road with real cars must have been horrifying. I've only driven one round a carpark. You'd have to offer me serious money to dare take one on a road.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sir Clive's health

      That was so transparently a partisan smear attempt against a former ally wrapped up in false concern that it's laughable. You wonder whether we were supposed to believe it or whether it was intentional mockery.

      You also wonder whether RCL are under the (mistaken) impression that they got away with that with their professionalism intact, or whether they just don't care any more.

    3. Paul D Smyth

      Re: Sir Clive's health

      I'm sure they'd like to put this on the former directors too if they could get away with it

  11. Rhubarb


    A pile of crap, as others have said just run an emulator on something (after all that is all this thing is doing), Retropie will do a better job and give you more options anyway.

  12. BRYN


    I thought it was common knowledge that it was using FUSE.

    I wanted this to be a success and I was more than happy to have parted with good money to buy this once the device was released. I was so excited I nearly backed but a little voice at the back of my head said to hold off. I'm so glad I did.

    I feel for the backers, who if they have received this have gotten a turd, and the ones that decided to hold off on the "blankety-blank" they look like they're not going to even get a turd.

    I suspect this maybe the last nail in anything Sinclair and hardware related ever happening again.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: FUSE?

      It was originally planned to custom firmware, this video, from eleven minutes onwards.

    2. ItsMeDammit

      Re: FUSE?

      Indeed - I thought its use on the Vega+ was common knowledge as well. It came up in the comments section of the Indiegogo page some time past and I mentioned it here myself only a couple of days ago in another Vega+ thread.

      To be fair, if they are reporting on it then El Reg probably has to confirm it for themselves. Other bugs not mentioned include the games on microSD card keymapping issue and the TV out not working. I am not sure what The Register's thoughts are on me cross-linking to the bug list that is widely available so I will just say that it's out there and makes for a worrying read if you find it. Many of the bugs have been known about for so long that sending out units like this should be an embarrassment for RCL.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: FUSE?

        sending out units like this should be an embarrassment for RCL

        I'd have thought taking half a million quid from people and wasting it should be an embarrassment, but apparently they're beyond shame.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: FUSE?

        Planet Computers stopped development last October, there has been no work on the firmware since then. Seems there was no money, no time due to the Gemini launch, or RCL and Planet Computers fell out.

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: FUSE?

      I thought it was common knowledge that it was using FUSE.

      Absolutely, there has been messageboard discussion with ex-insiders for months talking about this.

      Does Reg think it got some kind of scoop?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FUSE?

      Retro Computers Limited- "Putting the FU in FUSE"

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: FUSE?


        Prime Minister?

    5. Paul D Smyth

      Re: FUSE?

      I was exactly the same, I decided to hold back as it had been funded expecting there to be more available once launched. I've seen instructables using a raspberry Pi and 3D printed parts available to download and the official Pi screen that would do the job. Probably a little more expensive than the indiegogo price but easy to put together.

    6. Paul 25

      Re: FUSE?

      Likewise. Very sad to see how this has all panned out. I didn't back it but was hoping that with all the apparently experienced people involved that it would be good enough to plonk down some cash in exchange for some nostalgia.

      Sadly it looks like it's turned out as badly as so many other crowd funded projects, only this one was supposedly run by people who should have known what they were doing.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: FUSE?

        It was, until they left.

  13. nuked

    But otherwise, all ok?

  14. Dave 126 Silver badge

    If Reg HQ did have a micro USB OTG cable ( micro usb male > USB A female cable) kicking around, they could probably run a better Spectrum emulator experience than the Vega by connecting a gamepad to an Android phone.

    1. onefang

      "If Reg HQ did have a micro USB OTG cable ( micro usb male > USB A female cable) kicking around, they could probably run a better Spectrum emulator experience than the Vega by connecting a gamepad to an Android phone."

      I have a plastic clip that binds an Android phone to a PS3 SixAxis controller, and an app for mapping said controller to screen touches. It works via USB or Bluetooth. Works well for all sorts of games, but never tried a Spectrum emulator.

  15. wolfetone Silver badge

    In fairness you should've given it at least 4.5, or 5.

    Your unit has a working MicroSD slot. A lot of the ones released don't.

    1. stephanh

      Frankly 4/10 seems vastly overrated.

      I would immediately award a base score of 0 for the promised but missing games, then start subtracting points for the shoddy case and everything else which doesn't work.

      I think we should be looking in the negative 200-300 range here.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @stephanh; I suspect the device was so bad that its score underwent negative overflow, became hugely positive, then got knocked back down to +4 again.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pillage of the Open Source projects

    The pillage of all open source projects is now a sad and common reality.

    MacOS ? gcc -v in a terminal ?

    Probably any modern TV.

    Some backup software use GNU tar ...

    This is the disgusting norm, now.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Pillage of the Open Source projects

      A few years ago when Sir Alan of Sugar's Amsturd released version 3 of their eM@iler phone it used a version of Linux that was under the GPL, and they refused point blank to agree to the GPL.

      Ironic really, in a way.

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: Pillage of the Open Source projects

      Erm, I can't see any criticism of open source here?

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Pillage of the Open Source projects

      So people using open source software is bad?

      Or is it just because they're charging money for it?

      Apple use CUPS in OSX, in fact, they're actually the lead developers, does that make them even worse?

      Practically all the servers where I work are running Linux, should I wipe them and install Windows instead?

      FFS, the whole point of open source software is for it to be used. As long as companies are abiding by the license, what's the flipping problem?

    4. Stabbybob

      Re: Pillage of the Open Source projects

      Apple took a LOT more than just gcc from the OS community to build OSX. They were dicks about it to, not contributing fixes back, or submitting patches with missing documentation etc. They did the bare minimum they could legally get away with - standard for a corporation really. They do make pretty boxes though!

      1. ThomH

        Re: Pillage of the Open Source projects @Stabbybob

        Apple contributed all changes it made to GCC back to the community from the beginning, as well as redistributing all open source code it modified.

        When it stopped using GCC and developed its own compiler, it open sourced that too.

      2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Pillage of the Open Source projects

        GCC has been used to build software in UNIX like operating systems for decades, way before Apple even had much of an operating system.

        There is totally nothing unusual from seeing gcc in OSX seeing as its a UNIX. GCC was so popular that its was the compiler used to compile Linux before it was put inside the rest of GNU.

        There is totally nothing unusual about any of it and the only time anyone needs to provide code for GCC used in their product is when they have actually modified it. Anyone can use GCC because it is Free Software. Its the whole point of its existence.

        Note I said Free Software and not Open Source. Although Free Software is accepted as Open Source by the Open Source Initiative, its still Free Software licensed under the GNU GPL which is designed specifically to protect and enable the freedom of the user to use said software, for any purpose with or without modification and to distribute copies (for money even!) either verbatim or modified. The only restriction is on distributing modified copies, where you (the modifier) must provide access to the modified source code upon request.

        "Pillaging" of Free Software projects is only possible if you take the code from said software and insert it into your own without licensing your project under a compatible license. It would be easier to pillage an Open Source project however as these projects can use licenses that do not provide or defend their freedoms, such as a BSD license.

        Also, think about it. If they cant use Free Software like anyone else can, what do you want them to do? Give you more proprietary stuff? Or develop something that is Open Source but not Free Software (cough microsoft) where you can see the source code by all means, but dont you dare touch it?

  17. ChrisC Silver badge

    What's in a name...

    "the Vega+ is the flagship product of Retro Computers Ltd"

    If only someone in RCL had done a spot of historical research into early 1600's Sweden, they'd have known that giving their flagship a 4 letter name starting with V and ending in A might not turn out too well for them... Vasa, Vega, let's call the whole thing off.

    1. Michael Strorm Silver badge

      Re: What's in a name...

      In their defence, they probably hadn't been planning on selling it on the early-17th-century Swedish market anyway.

      1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

        Re: What's in a name...

        It turned all too well. Beyond their expectations even.

        /my coat has a ticket to Vasamuseet in the pocket/

  18. Lee D Silver badge

    1) Sky revoked the licences, there was a BBC article. They can't use the Sinclair or ZX Spectrum names at all any more as of a few days ago.

    2) Even if it was amazing, their attitude to customers stinks. There are people on their 4-5 HUNDREDTH request for a refund, unanswered for years.

    3) There's almost no way to sensibly add games easily to the SD card. It's missing the 1000's of games promised, because they can't secure rights.

    4) The firmware is apparently (according to Lee Fogarty who worked for them) an old one, that was a revamp of one he had tested, and works WORSE than the one he tested. The company doing it didn't get paid so they never finished or progress and there's a huge bug list available that shows what bugs it has. Lots, is the answer.

    5) These people have gone totally silent, but the various blogs publishing information from backers and insiders haven't. There's an awful lot of nonsense and politics that's pretty uninteresting and petty but there are some major issues over finance, dealing with people, lawyers and suppliers being unpaid, etc. etc.

    6) IndieGoGo are doing nothing. Despite promises. There's literally nothing happening on either of their "deadlines", even after promising action "despite products shipping now". Steer clear of IndieGoGo as they are basically complicit at this point.

    I never invested. I'm damn glad I didn't. You can pick up a second-hand GP2X for £50, and that can run all kinds of stuff (generations newer than the ZX Spectrum) and also run FUSE. It looks and works the same, pretty much. It's also 10+ years old, runs standard Linux on an ARM processor and runs off AA batteries and takes SD cards.

    That these guys couldn't do the equivalent of stick a RPi in a case with buttons and load FUSE properly over the course of several years tells you quite what the quality of these products and people is.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Indiegogo won't do anything, because they can't.

      No promises were made, backers have to accept that there are no guarantees and they are taking a risk.

      And most of all, RCL have shipped units and delivered other perks (hall of fame).

      So while RCL may have screwed up massively, that was always one of the options. IndieGogo are not going to get anywhere with debt collecters, because the bones that are left after the solicitors have picked out some of what they are owed, will be worthless.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        An established legal case has already defined the IndieGoGo donations / pre-orders / pledges / whatever they are called as "orders", nothing less, in this exact case.

        They can denounce the project.

        They can seek a refund on backer's *ORDERS*.

        They can throw the project off IndieGoGo.

        They can retract all endorsement of it.

        They can attempt to recoup their backer's money via the courts as they promised (if they get refused, meh, that's bad luck, but they could try!).

        IndieGoGo have *literally* said they would do the latter, WHETHER OR NOT the products shipped after their deadline. They haven't.

        It's not that there's something explicit and simple they could do legally. It's that they have promised things and then not even bothered to do them. That's enough to make them complicit and stop people doing business with them.

        1. ThomH

          @Lee D

          I had the feeling that case was decided based on a backer of the original Vega receiving a direct email from RCL advertising the Vega+ and enticing him to place an order. The conclusion isn't necessarily transferable to generic backers.

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: @Lee D


        2. werdsmith Silver badge

          An established legal case has already defined the IndieGoGo donations / pre-orders / pledges / whatever they are called as "orders", nothing less, in this exact case.

          That was a one off, special circumstances because of email correspondence. Since then that avenue has been firmly closed and you will notice a lack of follow up cases.

          1. UKRobM


            Some people have suggested that the fact that Rob received marketing literature prior to him ordering a ZX Vega Plus was vital to him winning his case. That is NOT true.

            The specific conditions the judge referred to that made this case potentially different from others brought against Indiegogo in the future was the clarity with which RCL always wrote about backers’ ORDERS and/or PRODUCT rather than their perks. The judge explained that when all the documents were taken together – the invitation received, the IGG campaign page, RCL’s “updates”, social media comments and announcements and plenty of others – they made it VERY CLEAR that a contract of sale had been formed. The ‘invitation’ for backers of the original Vega was just one element that contributed to this, but happened to be the example he gave.

            As every backer of the ZX Vega+ had a chance to read the campaign page prior to ordering, received an identically-worded receipt, and have been sent exactly the same updates as provided in Rob’s case, there is still more than enough evidence to prove that a contract of sale was formed in every case, whether an early invitation was received or not.

            The reason the judgement was not a ‘catch-all’ solution for all crowd-funding in general was that the judge pointed out that not all campaigns would be so forceful in their announcements that the perk people paid for would definitely be delivered on certain dates.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              That will be the reason for the flood of similar cases that followed the precedent then.

              1. skwdenyer

                Small claims court = no precedent. Each claimant will/would have to persuade each judge of the merits in each case.

                And RCL appear to have no money...

      2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Indiegogo won't do anything, because they can't.

        That didn't stop them saying they would do something when they couldn't.

        I guess that offering of false hope was purely damage limitation, hoping to come out of this shitfest smelling of roses

  19. adam payne

    Well it looks like crap but it least it exists in some form or another. I had serious doubts so i'm shocked some of them have been shipped.

    In it's current form I will be sticking to my emulator.

  20. ravenviz Silver badge

    Fogarty only got one point. What a dweeb!

  21. MacroRodent


    Not mentioning GPL on the web site is not yet necessarily a violation, but the customer who bought this should have received a copy of the license, and a written offer to provide the source code for all the GPL'd software in the unit.

    1. stephanh

      Re: GPL

      IANAL, but I don't see how bundling a GPL emulator with some emulated games does not require the entire thing to be GPLed. This doesn't seem "mere aggregation" to me; the bundled games don't do squat without the GPL-ed code.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Paris Hilton

        Re: GPL

        The games run perfectly well on other platforms. They don't need the GPL code if there's a Z80 CPU to hand! And the emulator works perfectly well without the games. They're entirely separate layers of code.

        But if you're then expecting RCL to provide you with the source code to 1000 different games, many from over 30 years ago? Best of British to you there...

      2. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: GPL

        That's like saying if you put a sample image in with a GPL paint program, the sample images gets GPL'd.


        The games themselves are not critical to the operation, and any emulator could play them. They are merely *data* that the program acts upon, not the program itself. Sure, with an emulator it can be harder to see the line, but it's still there.

        The Linux kernel is GPL but it also has non-GPL firmware binary blobs etc. It's not the same. There's a clear boundary where "the GPL program" and "data that it acts upon" are separated.

        A TZX or SNA or Z80 or TAP file that could be replaced with any other in the world doesn't automatically bring that under GPL. And an emulator that can be used with any of those files.

        It's like claiming that the licence for the source code for LibreOffice also affects the example Word document bundled with it.

        The bundled games do precisely what they always used to without the GPL code. Proven by the fact that there's a trade and entire website in those files on their own before that emulator ever existed (e.g. World of Spectrum, and I have TAP files going to back to the 90's from Gerton Lunter's Z80 and WinZ80).

        What you might be thinking of is MAME-style licensing that forbids bundling the games themselves.

        The only question mark really is the Spectrum ROMs which are presumably licensed from Sinclair/Amstrad/Sky and ARE necessary to boot the emulator and run any ZX Spectrum game. However, even they can be under any license separate to the GPL because they aren't part of the build process, can be swapped out for alternate ROMs (e.g. Timex Sinclair, Russian clones aplenty, homebrew ROMs etc.), and aren't being distributed as source code.

      3. YARR

        Re: GPL

        IANAL, but I don't see how bundling a GPL emulator with some emulated games does not require the entire thing to be GPLed

        IANAL, but I believe the convention is that Copyleft only applies to statically linked code, not separate executables.

    2. Frogmelon

      Re: GPL

      You mean the copy of the license, clearly written in black on the black paper included in the box?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nothing wrong with FUSE

    The headline and dismissive tone appear to suggest that the use of FUSE just adds crap software upon the crap hardware. That would be an unfair interpretation: FUSE is actually very good - it's an extremely accurate emulator, well written and still under very active development.

    Phil must be horrified that his project has become associated with this piece of rubbish. Please don't tar FUSE with this shitty brush.

    1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

      Re: Nothing wrong with FUSE

      "....appear to suggest that the use of FUSE just adds crap software upon the crap hardware"

      it suggested to me that the emulator they were developing was shite so just stole fuse and trying to hide the fact that they cant code....

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Nothing wrong with FUSE

        The emulator developed by Smith and Andrews seems pretty good, at least on YouTube. When they left RCL, they took it with them.

        RCL then had to find someone else, and went to Planet Computers. They took FUSE and hacked around with it but, for whatever reason, it wasn't finished.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Nothing wrong with FUSE

      FUSE is good.

      But it's good no matter what you put it on.

      They were claiming to have a machine "better" in those respects than just slapping FUSE onto any random ARM-powered portable computer (e.g. RaspPi, GP2X, OpenPandora, etc.).

      It's not FUSE itself that's the disappointment. It's that someone done what everyone else could have just done in the first place.

  23. HmmmYes

    Cheap ... poor plastic .... atrocious buttons .... decal done on a laser jet ....

    Are you *sure* this isnt an official Sinclair product?

    Proud owner of a 35 year old C64.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You know it's bad when there are no-name consoles made for Chinese market that look better than this POS.

  25. RodHull

    Anyone fancy sending me £513,000? I'll have them ready to ship for xmas ;D All joking apart, with 100k and no BS about 1 Million pre-installed titles this really should have been possible. PCB would have cost peanuts, case tooling pricey, but they clearly re-used some old tooling for the rear of the case and deffo that silly screen cover (me thinks thermostat display/button cover)

    Ah well, if I can find the money down the back of the sofa tfw8b might do something in the near Future ;D

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      I hear you Rod but you and I don't have the right connections.

    2. Steve K

      @Rod Hull

      You could use an Emu-later?

  26. Halfmad

    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.

  27. JeffyPoooh

    Could there be a more reflective screen?

    Nobody would be able to sneak up behind you.

    1. defiler

      Re: Could there be a more reflective screen?

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

  28. starquake

    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.

  29. /dev/null

    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...

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      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.

  30. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    What a bloody shame.

    So it's semi-vaporware then.

    1. VikiAi

      Need a new name for physically-present vapor-wear


  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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."

  32. Irongut

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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!)

    2. Anonymous Coward

      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,

      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.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        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?

  33. Davegoody

    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 !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      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.

  34. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. opaque

      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?

  35. Spartacus Mills

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

  36. IceC0ld

    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

  37. Dave Lawton


    I'm surprised that nobody has made this comment.

    The units described sound an awful lot like preproduction prototypes.

    Just a random thought.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Re: Preprod

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

  38. Waseem Alkurdi

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

    A cattleprod?

  39. FuzzyWuzzys

    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.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  41. Andy3

    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.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Mine has yet to arrive...

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

    1. whitepines

      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?

  43. Horaced

    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!

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: BIG NEW!

      Not enough upvotes.

  44. Andi McDonald

    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

  45. NanoMeter

    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.

    1. MacroRodent

      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.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        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.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

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

        2. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

          I suppose I should link:

          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.

      2. NanoMeter

        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.

    2. UKRobM

      Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

      Something like this maybe?!/OMNI-128HQ-LAPTOP/p/75106221/category=29185006

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: 98% ZX Spectrum look a like

        Or ?

  46. stonberg

    ZX Spectrum Vega+ blows

    Unnecessary headline text removed.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

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

      Oh so true.

  48. Wobbly World

    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!!!...

  49. fixit_f

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

  50. butigy

    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.

  51. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    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.

  52. HoraceB

    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.

  53. warlockuk

    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.

  54. Spleen

    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.

  55. Portent

    Better build quality than the original ZX81.

  56. martinusher Silver badge

    Taught a generation to program.....


    We're still living with the fallout.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Taught a generation to program.....

      Bah humbug. It taught a generation how to fit a program into 1/16/32/48/64K!

      Now we have Win10 where 'Photos' takes up 100MB just to run a slideshow. Or do something in the background that consumes 100MB. I did a slideshow with wipes & dissolves on my trusty old C64. Admittedly the images were somewhat simpler, and it was a lot easier to stop it running.

      (He says, doing the old man grumble having figured out how to kill off Photos.. for now, at least.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Taught a generation to program.....

      "Taught a generation to program.....


      No - that was stackoverflow, outsourcing and Javascript.

      1. onefang

        Re: Taught a generation to program.....

        "Taught a generation to program.....


        "No - that was stackoverflow, outsourcing and Javascript."

        You're thinking about the generation that came after the Sinclair generation of bad coders.

  57. Blood Vipre


    Why the hell would anyone want to make one of these when you can use an android phone and the plethora of emulators you can get on them, along with a Bluetooth joyoad.

    They were available before this was crowdfunded and are available now, and the massive library of games on the world of spectrum site ready to be utilized.

    I knew this would happen which is why I never bought into it. It really is just a gimmick, just like all the other mini retro consoles that have ripped people off.

    My phone, screen mirroring to my big TV, and a joyoad. Job done. Or better still, my laptop and a long hdmi cable. Ideal for text adventutes. All for free. Thanks Johnothan Needle, for a great and easy to use emulator.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well done - best quotable.... quote

    Best quote of the whole sorry mess... One thing is plain; this is not a Rick Dickinson design. Rather, it’s what happens when you look at a picture of a Rick Dickinson case design and trace round it with crayons.

  59. J27

    Having grown up in Canada, I had never even heard of the ZX Spectrum or Sir Clive Sinclair before the coverage of the Vega.

    From someone with no nostalgia for this product, this thing looks like one of those cheap Chinese handhelds, with fewer games and an inflated price.

    It doesn't look like "Retro Computers" does much other than steal open-source software and slap it onto already existing hardware and they take ages to do so. Why did they even need to crowd-fund this? It was shady from the start.

  60. JulieM Silver badge

    Thatcher was wrong.

    You *can* run out of other people's money.

  61. pAnoNymous

    Harsh but fair

    Review seems harsh and kudos to the guys for trying to get their dreams realised but probably fair to people looking into buying this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Harsh but fair

      I thought it was a sympathetic review, giving it 4/10 for powering up for example, 1/10 seems more realistic given that they could have put a Pi running an emulator inside and at least ended up with something that ran acceptably

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I repurposed my old PSP, and ran Fuse on it. Looks like the same form factor, but with Sony’s build quality.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PSP?

      Somehow that feels like cheating.

    2. pontiffacot

      Re: PSP?

      Your PSP is way more powerful than the piece of shit reviewed here though. Honestly, it's worse than those junk Chinese knock-off handheld consoles, that is really saying something. A PSP runs circles around a 'Vega+'. Not only can your PSP run FUSE better, it can even emulate PSX and N64 games.

      You can buy cheap watches these days that are superior to a Vega+.

      These people should have spent their money on something worthwhile. It's insulting that this is how people choose to spend their money.

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I am not related in any way with these people , but to me , this looks fantastic. i would keep one of these in its original box and manuals. When your grandkids say " whatever happened to British mfr ?" you can bring this out and show them. A slice of history for £105 , nearly as good as a piece of berlin wall, or Saddams Golden toilet paper. Remember the original Apple II sold for 220,000? So bloody awful its great ...

    1. pontiffacot

      Re: i LIKE THIS

      lol. Dude, this Vega+ is the cheapest bottom barrel hardware available with a free emulator and a few obscure Spectrum roms slapped onto an SD card. It's going to be as valuable in the future as those plastic handheld games produced during the 80's are today. Most of The cheap handheld 'gaming consoles' produced in China are actually superior to the Vega+ in every department. This is a total scam and even a 4/10 is too high of a rating.

  64. Hate2Register

    I paid for that console. Why should it end up for free on your desk for review? Call the bloody police.

  65. darklord

    I paid 9 quid for an emulator on my iphone and can play the same games (it came bundeled too.

    Whilst this would be a nice idea The games (apart from Elite) where nothing special but this was the dawn of computer games.

    Remember paying £20 a cassette in the early 80s in todays money that is over a £100.

    Now game boys where far better prospect.

  66. pontiffacot

    Honestly this thing is a scam. Even 4/10 is too high. You would have a better experience and get a better value with a $20 Android phone from Wal-Mart. What a piece of shit LOL.

  67. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    You wait forever to get something which isn't what you expected and which doesn't work anyway. What could be a more authentic Sinclair experience?

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