back to article Court orders moribund ZX Spectrum reboot firm's directors to stump up £38k legal costs bill

Just as readers thought the saga of dodgy Sinclair reboot firm Retro Computers Ltd had ended, the High Court has ruled that its current and former directors owe £38,000 in legal costs to two of its founders. Senior Court Costs Office judge Deputy Master Friston ruled last week that Retro Computers Ltd, David Levy, Suzanne …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two words for you ...

    Spectrum Next ...

    1. Cronus

      Re: Two words for you ...

      More like, "Never again"

    2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Two words for you ...

      After what's happened in this saga, I don't think any sane individual would put money forward for a sequel project

      1. andy gibson

        Re: Two words for you ...

        The next project was funded a long time ago. Unlike the Vega, backers have no worries about their money or the people involved in it.

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

          Re: Two words for you ...


          1. ThomH

            Re: Two words for you ...

            The Spectrum Next team shipped their board-only machines quite a while ago, they just seem to be suffering with the keyboard. And one gets the sense of too many cooks in the kitchen, as the hardware spec for the extended modes mutates every ten minutes but remains consistently overwhelmingly undocumented — though being an FPGA machine, that at least doesn't have manufacturing ramifications. They also post an update every two weeks, full of pictures and dates and so on.

            So that's reassuring enough, at least for now.

      2. SeanR

        Re: Two words for you ...

        how about if it's an entirely separate project, by a completely different bunch of people?

        which the spectrum next is.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: Two words for you ...

          Sinclair were part of the original shareholdings in this company, as were Sky who own the old Amstrad copyrights/trademarks in relevant Speccy things, hence it was officially licensed.

          Spectrum Next is neither licensed to use the name/image, nor capable of using the official ROMs (which I believe prohibit pay-for distribution).

          Hence, Spectrum Next may well be the "logical" successor of the Spectrum, it can't hold much claim to being a legitimate one, like the RCL mess.

          That may or may not be a bonus. But I'd be wary of anything that Sky might decide to clamp down upon if the will takes them, especially if it means they avoid another RCL-like debacle potentially tarnishing their name / IP.

        2. Michael Strorm

          Re: Two words for you ...

          The Spectrum Next is a far more interesting prospect anyway. Unlike the Vega and Vega+, which are internally just generic ARM hardware running Spectrum emulators (#), the Next is intended to be an FPGA-based recreation (and expansion) of the original Spectrum design/architecture.

          Also, the case looks nice.

          Not saying I'd definitely buy one myself, but I'd certainly consider the possibility. It'd be a shame if its prospects were hurt by the entirely unrelated set of jokers responsible for the Vega+ mess.

          (#) Since one could already do this on pretty much *any* generic hardware nowadays- Raspberry Pi, low-powered Android smartphone or generic handheld for example- many people (myself included) were questioning what the point of the Vega+ was even *before* the fiasco unfolded.

          1. Jedipadawan

            Re: Two words for you ...

            Alas, the Spectrum Next is totally outside my use case which is laptop required, real HDD (not even SSD due to $ to Gigs ration and mass storage needs) and enough buttons to handle my KDE custom shortcuts so buying one is a non-starter really.

            But I really wish I HAD a use case for one!

            Trouble is that I do not even play games!

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: Two words for you ...

              What you need is ZX Omni 128 Laptop or Spectrum Next in a laptop case...

              1. Jedipadawan

                Re: Two words for you ...

                Wow! Nice to see both and kewl!

                Alas... my real use cases are:

                Real work with a full KDE Linux distro with lotsa keyboard shortcuts and... video editing.

                No real ZX Spectrum system works for that! That's why I cry! :-)

                Now if someone could create an ARM laptop with a proper HDD in a Spectrum inspired casing... we'd be talking!

            2. Chris Evans

              Re: Two words for you ...

              " (not even SSD due to $ to Gigs ration and mass storage needs) " I just a couple of 32GB mSATA SSD's £10 each! I think you could fit every speccy game ever made on 32GB multiple times!

          2. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: Two words for you ...

            There's a guy who sells fit-into-your-Speccy conversion kits to turn the keyboard into a USB one (with an option to pass along the matrix data direct for some Speccy emulators, or emulate a PC keyboard for each press).

            That, and a Raspberry Pi would do a much better job.

            If you want handheld like this one was, just buy an old GP2X from about 10 years ago. 200+MHz dual-ARM chips run anything the Speccy used to, in standard ARM Linux binaries (e.g. fuse emulator, etc.) on a AA-battery-powered, portable device that stores on SD card, etc. and can even be touchscreen.

            This thing is ten years behind even that, and never made it to production, in essence.

            Hell, Google GPD Win if that's what you want (a portable retro-games-console rather than an accurate ZX Spectrum with-keyboard remake). £200 and it runs normal Windows 10 on Intel chips in your pocket, plays Steam games, has "handheld console" controls, and a keyboard in something the size of one of those foldable Nintendo DS things.

            This thing was poor, outdated, not-speccy-like at all, and overpriced before you even get into whether it actually existed.

  2. adam payne Silver badge

    So after all the lawsuits, the insults, the finger pointing, the falling out, no one has any money left and the backers still don't have anything to show for their investment.

    1. SeanR

      true, but now that Levy, Martin, and Mrsic-Flogel have been instructed to cough up by the high court, they're much more likely to get a visit from a HCEO, as seen on such shows as "Can't pay, we'll take it away" and their ilk.

      More likely than indiegogo pulling their finger out and doing what they said they would 7 months ago, anyway...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...Current And Former Directors Owe £38,000..."

    I thought at last call Andrews and Smith were claiming to be 'current directors'?

    1. jaduncan

      Re: "...Current And Former Directors Owe £38,000..."

      On looking, David Neil Laurence Levy is the only current named director but the shares are still split with 250 each for Andrews, Smith, Levy, and SINCLAIR RESEARCH LTD.

    2. AIBailey

      Re: "...Current And Former Directors Owe £38,000..."

      Current directors are Andrews, Smith and Levy.

      Unless you ask Levy, in which case he's still claiming he's the only one left, as he keeps typing to remove Andrews and Smith from the record still and refuses to acknowledge them.

      The current directors that owe money statement refers only to Levy

      The former directors referenced in this instance are Martin (potentially illegally added as a director in the first place) and Mrsic-Flogel.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: "...Current And Former Directors Owe £38,000..."

        Now that they're being dinged for £38k, maybe he'll want to acknowledge them as directors so he can split the costs with them?

      2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: "...Current And Former Directors Owe £38,000..."

        Current directors are Andrews, Smith and Levy.

        Unless you ask Levy, in which case he's still claiming he's the only one left, as he keeps typing to remove Andrews and Smith from the record still and refuses to acknowledge them.

        Over at Companies House there are filings dated 8th November 2018 appointing Andrews and Smith as Directors on the 2nd November, and filings dated 12th November terminating the appointment of Andrew and Smith as Directors on the 2nd of November.

        So "fuck knows".

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge


  5. jonathan keith Silver badge


    Any idea if Levy et al are being investigated for fraud or suchlike, in regard to spunking half a mil of investors money on something other than the Vega +?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So...

      Let's not forget the reson for the split in the first place is Andrews and Smith took all that money off Spectrum fans then decided they'd rather build a C64 (and a crap joystick) instead. I'd rather see the whole lot of them banned from future directorships than trying to pin the blame on one or two.

  6. defiler Silver badge

    Money wasted?

    Money is never wasted - it just moves around to be used on other things.

    Oh... Legal costs... Wasted it is then.

    1. EastFinchleyite

      Re: Money wasted?

      Wasted? Heavens no!

      Dear old Wikipedia reckons that the average cost for an hour of UK TV programming is £100,000.

      On that basis the £500k + raised and wasted by this farrago seems to be good value entertainment for the masses. As for the investors; they say a fool and his money are quickly parted.

  7. ForthIsNotDead


    Hey all,

    I've had this great idea for a ZX Spectrum hand-held console. It's going to have a colour screen, and come pre-installed with 1000s of games ready to run.

    I'm going to call it the Spectrum++

    Stop by Indigogo page if you can and pledge a small sum of money. Let's get this thing started!

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Anyone?

      Ha.. mine will also run C64, NES and Pippin titles.

      As soon as I get Apple to endorse it.

      1. AIBailey

        Re: Anyone?

        Apple endorsement? No problem.

        Just make sure you only print the logo on paper and fix it with tape, just in case they change their minds.

  8. Mage Silver badge

    the whole project is now dead for good


    It was also misleading claims and poor design from the start.

  9. DropBear

    "The full judgment is here as a 250KB PDF."

    They really couldn't have squished it into exactly 64KB - or at the very least, 128KB...?!?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Kibibytes burn in hell!

      > exactly 64KB

      48 kilobytes, you ignorant Commodore owner!!

      1. Jedipadawan

        Re: Kibibytes burn in hell!

        Now, now, be fair.

        Both the Spectrum and C64 needed room for the app and screen display so we're talking around 24K most likely...

        "I'll get my coat."

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Kibibytes burn in hell!

          38k Bytes Free - seems to ring a bell for the C64, 52k if the basic interpreter was switched off

        2. TeraTelnet

          Re: Kibibytes burn in hell!

          10 PRINT "I'LL GET MY COAT"

          20 GOTO 10

  10. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    With tens of thousands having been spent on lawyers, customers who paid RCL for a Vega+ games console via the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform will be left wondering whether their £105 was a total waste of time and money.


    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      That was going to be my joke... Have an upvote

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Somebody got their £105 worth

      Those 500 bloody shit consoles will be selling for a small fortune on eBay in a few years' time.

  11. Steve McGuinness

    So what are the chances

    Of finding one of the Vega's that actually did ship on Ebay?

    Did the Directors not claim at one point they had these ready to ship in a warehouse but the legal action was preventing them from doing so, only for it to turn out they had no such stock?

    I genuinely wanted one of these, but l had doubts about it from the Kickstarter page description, so wanted to wait till the product came out before buying it.

    And now the bloody things are as rare as Hen's Teeth.

    1. AIBailey

      Re: So what are the chances

      Some of the Directors (Levy and Martin) might have a history of telling a number of porkies regarding the progress and status of the devices.


    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: So what are the chances

      Some have already been on Ebay and they fetched at least double the £105 they cost. Some over £300.

      I think there were 50 consoles made, I don't know how many showed up on Ebay.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So what are the chances

      The Vega+s that *did* ship are so bad that they cut the cheese ;-)

      Even if you had contributed to the Kickstarter, the odds are that you wouldn't have been among the "lucky" few who received a Vega+ compared to the far larger number who didn't. If they turn out to be valuable as predicted, it's only going to be because of rarity and the novelty of association with the fiasco anyway.

  12. Nosher

    How the mighty have fallen

    It's sad where Levy has ended up - once a respected author, former chess grand master, co-developer of the multi-championship-winning SciSys chess machines and, perhaps most famously, part of the Elan/Flan/Enterprise story - a microcomputer that would have been ground-breaking if it hadn't been nearly two years late. Enterprise/Elan failed in 1986 with debts of £8 million, so maybe the whole thing, way back in 1985, set the pattern for the present day.

  13. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Why recreate the Spectrum when there's literally millions of them lying around secondhand shops?

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Handheld consoles with a built in LCD screen and gamepad, powered by internal rechargeable batteries with 1000 games pre-installed.

      Compared to a mains powered Spectrum with past use-by date electrolytic capacitors, and you'll still have to hunt round the secondhandshop for a PAL TV with RF tuner and a cassette deck.

      (yes I know there are SD card adapters and HDMI adapters).

      1. Bod

        The Vega+ was little more (or a lot less) than running a Spectrum emulator on your phone for the handheld experience. And with a phone the games are easy to acquire or may come with some Speccy apps.

        Part of the problem from the start was the Vega+ was not a recreation or modernisation of the Spectrum. It was just a box running Linux and a Spectrum emulator with some buttons (no where near enough to play a lot of the games) and a promise of bundling games.

        The Recreated Spectrum was at least more useful, if only a USB keyboard really. It had the full case and keyboard and hooked into a emulator running on any iOS or Android device, and bundled games.

        Still not a patch on the real thing or a Spectrum Next which takes it to the next level. Though pushing the graphics to the level they have with the Next is making it feel less like a Spectrum in my opinion. As a progression to what the Spectrum could have been replaced with, ignoring the QL, really it would have been a full 16bit machine. But then the kids had moved onto Amiga/Atari anyway.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          If they had got the PSP style handheld format right, licenced the 1000 games and made the software slick and stable then it would have been an OK device regardless of how they implemented the Spectrum emulation.

          But I always felt it was more of a fifty quid device rather than hundred quid, which saved me from losing out.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'd almost forgotten about that, but the "Recreated ZX Spectrum" really wasn't much better. As you say, it was effectively just a Bluetooth keyboard in a case that looked like the original Spectrum, but there was a lot of dubiousness surrounding *that* too.

          Apparently it requires emulators to be designed specifically to work with it, but the Android app it required was withdrawn from the Play store. (I'm not entirely sure whether it can be used as a standard Bluetooth keyboard in most situations). It's also not clear whether everyone backing the Kickstarter actually received their device.

          If the Recreated Spectrum project doesn't come off looking quite as bad as the Vega+ fiaso, that says more about the awfulness of the latter than the success of the former.

          Has the Spectrum Next project got the licensing it need already. Because it strikes me that two botched Spectrum-related projects are going to make Sky (who own the Sinclair brand and Spectrum IP) somewhat wary about being associated with anything apparently similar again, even though the Next looks far more reputable, and interesting...

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            The problem with the Recreated Spectrum is normal mode can't deal with multiple keypresses at the same time and game mode uses a special keymap where keydown gets one character value and keyup another. However sometimes the keyup character goes missing and then it's constantly thinking a key is held down until you press all 40 keys so the missing keyup character gets sent again and the software realises the key is up.

            But it's fun to drag out and use on a Pi/Wintendo from time to time.

  14. Horaced


    ' Deputy Master Friston commented: "I imagine that from their perspective[,] they found the experience to be brutal, this being because they would all have been concerned about their reputations." '

    Well their reputations sure preceded them through a litany of company and legal memorandum over the years - a zesty read for the curious. Then their reputations splattered all over the honest backers of the no-go campaign. Lately their reputations have been shredded, stomped, boiled and vanquished. This is business as usual.

  15. STOP_FORTH Silver badge

    Zombie companies

    Any news of SCO?

    1. Paul D Smyth

      Re: Zombie companies

      Apparently Levy attempted to appoint Darl McBride as a director.....

  16. Whirlwound

    Game Over

    Hopefully Andrews & Smith can put this fustercluck behind them and concentrate on RGL's C64 remakes. You know, which they are actually delivering on.

    As for Levy, Martin et al, their 'reputations' were fairly die-cast already: fraudulent fantasists in varying stages of psychosis and/or sociopathy, only ever looking out for the next grift. What was it he said? "I will ruin you, I will ruin you both, I have done it before, I will do it again!"

    Yeah, good luck with your unhealthy obsession of child sex robots there, Dave. How'd that go for you last ye--oh, it didn't did it.

    1. Paul D Smyth

      Re: Game Over

      It's long past time the SFO were called in to investigate this. Levy, Martin & Mrsic-Flogel should certainly see the inside of a criminal court at least, if not a jail cell

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