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Hardware

Nostalgic For the ZX Spectrum? Soon You Can Play With a New One 91

Posted by timothy
from the one-hand-tied-behind-your-back dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There is a very interesting project underway to recreate the ZX Spectrum and more. The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum has been successfully crowdfunded, and it is due to go on sale in September 2014. If you want to go back to the 1980s — to the wonderful era of 8-bit gaming, you can instead try one of the many ZX Spectrum emulators." I remember being excited at the new Sinclair when my dad brought it home, but my strongest memory now is of what might be the worst keyboard I've ever had the chance to use.
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Nostalgic For the ZX Spectrum? Soon You Can Play With a New One

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  • It's a keyboard (Score:5, Informative)

    by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday February 23, 2014 @03:09PM (#46317725) Homepage Journal
    The article doesn't even appear to mention the official page of the crowdfunding campaign, which is this Kickstarter campaign [kickstarter.com]. It turns out not to be a hardware recreation of the Spectrum's logic, just a rubber keyboard for use with emulators.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2014 @03:10PM (#46317733)

    If you think the ZX Spectrum has the worst keyboard, then you've clearly never used a ZX81 ...

    • by mrbester (200927)

      Indeed. Moving from the membrane ZX81 to a Spectrum 48K spongy keyboard was like a breath of fresh air. Still rubbish compared to the Sharp MZ80K I had access to even though the graphics were better

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I reckon the Oric 1's membrane keyboard was a lot better. Especially the later Oric Atmos keyboard was exceptionally good. These Oric models were the direct competitor to the ZX Spectrum (price/features/performance/target-audience).

        IMHO I would rather have an Oric Atmos style keyboard than that ZX Condom one. the Atmos also looked very posh with its black/red colour scheme and futuristic appearance.

        Then there's the fact that after awhile the metal frame on top came loose. Sorry but I definitely haven't joll

    • I pressed dents into my old ZX81 keyboard until it stopped working.
      Then I used the ZX81 as a door wedge.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @04:47PM (#46318367)
      If you think that ZX81 has the worst keyboard, then you've clearly never used an IQ-151. ;-)
    • by Anonymous Coward

      One of my pet projects back then (eons ago!) was a hardware keyboard. Can't remember well, but I recall buying conventional buttons for electric equipment, which probably had transparent caps, instead of computer keyboard keys. The result was not too big, because the ZX81 had few keys. Worked like a charm, but it was near the end of my experiences with that wonderful machine.

      Sir Clive, God bless you and your house. May all the happiness you caused come back to you several times.

      This guy surely deserved a mo

      • by Lazarian (906722)
        I remember back in the day that at least a couple electronics hobby magazines had articles showing how to upgrade the ZX81 keyboard using surplus keyboards meant for a failed computer from Texas Instruments called the TI99-2. They were pretty decent, well made units that were easy to rewire and sold for ten bucks. I don't think I got around to hooking it up though. Memories...
    • by dccase (56453)

      I didn't have one of those new-fangled ZX81's, but I thought the keyboard on my ZX-80 was adequate.
      It's not like you were going to type a book on it. The programming environment was elegantly terse.

      Mine still works - as well as it ever did. It will work until there are no more TVs with the right inputs.

      • If you actually have a working ZX80, you do realise it's worth quite a lot of money these days, don't you? Not that I'd sell mine if I had one (I "only" have my old ZX81 and ZX Spectrum (not to mention a QL mouldering in an attic somewhere)) but just to let you know that you should take good care of it...

    • by Alioth (221270)

      Or the Microsoft Surface keyboard...

    • What about the Psion Organiser II with its keys arranged as

      ABCDEF
      GHIJKL
      MNOPQR
      STUVWX
      YZ

      Not easy when you're used to QWERTY.
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      I'd rather type on my old ZX81 than on my Android. Typing on glass sucks.

  • by Molt (116343) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @03:15PM (#46317773)
    The people behind the Kickstarter seem to be defaulting on agreements to pay royalties [polygon.com] to the developers of the games they're bundling, and not really responding well to questions asking them why [kickstarter.com], which isn't a great start.
  • Don't count on it.

    Those behind the Kickstarter have already failed to pay the developers of games they used in their iOS emulators (despite signing contracts etc.). The company has liabilities almost as big as the Kickstarter and few assets. They still haven't demonstrated a real prototype (it wouldn't have been that hard for them to show an actual rubber key Spectrum case driving a Bluetooth HID module, but all that's been shown is a retail POS keyboard driving some emulated games).

    I hope I'm wrong but I s

  • overheat (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rknop (240417) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @03:19PM (#46317797) Homepage

    I remember getting one of those when I was 10 or 11. First generation. All excited to finally have a computer. But I couldn't leave it on for more than an hour or two before it would just crash because it had overheated. Too frustrating to use. We sent it back before the necessary 10 days had passed.

    I was sad.

    Later (within the year? I don't remember) I got a Vic-20; a couple of years later, a Commodore 64. Then, in college, a Commodore 128. Those guys worked much better for me than the Sinclair ZX ever did.

    • by Alioth (221270)

      Now those old crashy Issue 1 Spectrums are worth a great deal of money (the later (and much more numerous) more reliable ones aren't worth nearly as much)

    • by RDW (41497)

      Mine (not quite that early) had a bug that gave the wrong colours with our (Hitachi?) TV. According to Sir Clive, this was the fault of the TV manufacturer for 'not following standards'. Expecting Sinclair to test the Spectrum hardware with a range of commonly used televisions before release was, of course, completely out of the question...

      I originally had the 16k model, partly funded by the refund from a ZX81 (actually two in succession) that had conveniently died - QC was not Sinclair's strong point. Incr

      • Had a friend who upgraded his to 48K it later broke down and he sent it back for repair. They sent back a brand new 16K model :)
      • by shippo (166521)
        My Issue 2 Spectrum exhibited exactly the same problem when connected to one of our TV sets. The issue was due to the PAL colour signal, in particular the fact that the phase of one part of the colour signal is reversed on each alternate line. On decoding the signal the TV simply inverted the phase of the wrong lines, resulting in red and green components of the picture getting mangled. Of course these decoding errors were down to the Spectrum's signal not adhering to the PAL specifications properly. A pr
    • I bought one myself. Utter crap. Like you I returned it in a few days.

      Later when the Commodore 64 came out I was much happier.

  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Sunday February 23, 2014 @03:29PM (#46317855) Journal

    If you want to build a modern recreation of the Speccy (absolutely timing perfect too) there's a clone called the Harlequin which was designed by a guy who recently reverse engineered the ZX Spectrum's Ferranti ULA and wrote a book about it. The book's great:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-ZX... [amazon.co.uk]

    There's a thread on World of Spectrum Forums - a German member has arranged to get the components and PCBs to make a kit. He may still have a few going if you jump in soon:

    http://www.worldofspectrum.org... [worldofspectrum.org] (go to near the end of the very long thread)

    Also there is a Verilog HDL description of the ZX ULA on OpenCores (based on Chris Smith's reverse engineering work) if you like to play with FPGAs.

  • It was a much more capable computer, and equally ahead of its time if not moreso. It also had a better keyboard than the ZX. I've regretted selling mine off to a coworker in 1993.

    • Because more people remember ZXs.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      No-one wants to be forced to use Sinclair Microdrives :).

      Besides which, there were far less classic games for the QL than the Spectrum.

      • by macraig (621737)

        Hey, no one was forcing you... you could've hooked up a floppy or disk drive to the expansion bus if you'd wanted! And it had a 68008 in it, "classic" games could've been ported from the Lisa/Mac.

      • by MROD (101561)

        Hey, don't knock the Microdrives, they worked well enough.

        Only now that the foam rubber pads under the tape on the cartridges are failing is the data being lost from them. Thankfully someone's found a solution to this and has got some high-quality felt pads made up as replacements. (See: RWAP Software for more details.)

        It only took a year until 3.5" floppy disk drives and interface were available, if you had the cash. Remember, back then the drives cost a fortune and the disks themselves a significant amou

    • No reason to build it for the same reason no on bought it when it came out. No software.

      • by macraig (621737)

        And there was loads of software for the ZX at launch, then?

        • There was never any software for the QL.

          • by macraig (621737)

            Sure there was. I had some. If there weren't any *games*, whose fault was that? You should've written or ported one. Regardless, the machine was significant enough to have spawned several clones.

            • When I say no software, of course I mean very little. Too little to make it a sensible purchase.

              It's a shame. But Sinclair fumbled the launch as I recall, and by the time you could actually get one, the excitement had subsided. Then there were problems with the microdrives. And the problem that it was priced above the BBC Micro level rather then the Spectrum level, and so it didn't appeal to Sinclair's existing customers.

              BBC Micro users such as as I might have bought one, but we needed reassurance given the

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          And there was loads of software for the ZX at launch, then?

          The ZX wasn't obsolete at launch. The QL was.

          • by MROD (101561)

            Erm... so how many machines costing less than £2000 had a 68000 processor and fully pre-emptive multitasking in January 1984? None.

            The Macintosh, which you're possibly talking about, was announce two weeks after the QL and was half an order of magnitude more expensive.

            This isn't to say that the QL was perfect, which it very much wasn't. Some of the design decisions, such as using the keyboard processor for serial receive and sound as well as the keyboard were nuts.

            Tony Tebby's OS and SuperBASIC were w

            • by Joce640k (829181)

              Sure it had lots of neat features...but nobody wanted it because the IBM PC was already doing the job (even though it was slower).

              And microdrives...? They weren't serious.

              • by MROD (101561)

                In the UK the IBM PC was a very rare beast outside of a blue chip company, they were just too darned expensive.

                In January 1984 the IBM PC XT was the only version on offer, using an 8088 or 8086, the PC AT had not even been announced. The tape only version with built in BASIC on ROM would probably set you back ~£1500, if you were lucky, with MGA mono-graphics maybe. Then you had to add the monitor for a couple of hundred more.

                Most people and small companies just couldn't afford that sort of money. It w

    • by Threni (635302)

      The keyboard where the keys fell out if you turned it upside down? That device was a joke, and in no way ahead of its time.

      • by MROD (101561)
        That's an urban myth and only slightly true of the early ZX Spectrum+ cases.
    • by MROD (101561)

      Actually, there was a QL derivative sort of available, the Q40 and Q60 machines running SMSQ/E, the QDOS derivative.

      Out of production currently though.

      Having said that, there is still a small but active QL hardware and software development community.

      Check out the QL-Users mailing list [q-v-d.com] archives.

  • There is a very interesting project underway to recreate the ZX Spectrum and more.

    No, there isn't. Certainly not "more" - I don't know where that's come from.

    This [kickstarter.com] is the link you're looking for. The one that tells you that, actually, what's been kickstarted is a bluetooth keyboard in the style of a ZX spectrum.

    Speaking of that link, though, what's with the shitty JPEG [amazonaws.com] details page? Don't we has text on the internets now?

    • what's with the shitty JPEG details page?

      It wouldn't be to hide the details from Kickstarter's keyword scanner, would it? I know an eBay seller who used to use an image-of-text to hide its terms of sale from eBay's keyword scanner so that the use of the word "check" in "before you bid, check with your country's customs department to see what duty you'll need to pay" didn't trip the prohibited payment option filter. Officially, according to a representative of the seller, the image-of-text was so that terms could be revised on 50,000 store items at

  • by Peter H.S. (38077) on Sunday February 23, 2014 @04:33PM (#46318261) Homepage

    What? The ZX Spectrum keyboard was years ahead of the competition with its square, flat, chiclet keys. It took decades before the PC industry realized its potential instead of emulating old typewriter keys. These days even Apple's Macbook Pro has flat and square keys, a clear tribute to the ZX "Speccy" chiclet keyboard.

    On a more serious note, while the ZX Spectrum keyboard wasn't for touch typists, it had its advantages too: all the BASIC commands was printed on or above or below the keys, so it worked as a BASIC "cheat sheet". You only had to press "G" to print the command "GOTO" so it saved key presses and removed typos in the commands and functions etc.

    The ZX Spectrum worked very well as an entry level PC with an emphasis on learning BASIC programming. I know several people who made a career in the IT business because of what they learned from programming the ZX Spectrum.

    • That's right -- the keyboard was also a "cheat sheet" with all the available BASIC instructions. It was brilliant and with its colors and design to me it's still the most exciting keyboard ever! Plus I knew about an equal number of C64 and Spectrum users, almost no one from the C64 camp did any programming and almost all from the Spectrum camp did. Those printed keywords were just begging to try them out.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23, 2014 @04:46PM (#46318349)

    1. It's not a Bluetooth ZX Spectrum, but a Bluetooth ZX Spectrum *keyboard*;

    2. It's not even a generic keyboard, but a keyboard that is only guaranteed to work with "Elite official applications";

    3. Most of these "Elite official applications" have been removed from AppStore, some of them due to unpaid royalties, others for copyright infringment - thus there's a change owners of the keyboard may not have any applications to use after all;

    4. Unpaid game developers are currently trying to cancel this Kickstarter campaign, since the premise of a Spectrum-like keyboard to play licensed games is false - several games that Elite released on mobile were never licensed at all, others were licensed but never paid;

    5. This "news" is about 3 weeks old, as you can see from the following links:

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/gamesblog/2014/feb/13/zx-spectrum-kickstarter-over-unpaid-developer-bills
    http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber/2014/01/the-elite-bluetooth-keyboard-breaking-down-the-problems/
    http://www.merseyremakes.co.uk/gibber/2014/02/bluetooth-zx-spectrum-elitewatch-update/
    http://www.computerandvideogames.com/447934/zx-spectrum-kickstarter-company-faces-allegations-of-non-payment/
    http://www.vg247.com/2014/01/31/zx-spectrum-game-developers-concerned-over-elite-systems-kickstarter/
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-02-03-controversy-over-bluetooth-zx-spectrum-keyboard
    http://torrentfreak.com/successful-kickstarter-campaign-hit-by-game-piracy-claims-140131/
    http://www.polygon.com/2014/1/31/5364436/emulator-keyboard-kickstarter-under-fire-for-using-licensed-material
    http://stevewetherill.com/2014/01/30/public-statement-on-elite-bluetooth-spectrum-kickstarter/

    • by Alioth (221270)

      There's another timing perfect FPGA version (on a purpose designed PCB the size of the Raspberry Pi) coming out shortly called the ZX Uno. The Uno is based on the reverse engineering of the original ULA and as such is timing perfect.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I never had a ZX Spectrum, but I remember looking at them in the shops.

    My dad bought a Compucolor II and it was awesome. It looks like there is an emulator out now for it too @ http://www.compucolor.org/emu.html

    Sadly I don't think I'll ever get my kids to get into the computing platforms that was my early teenage years.
     

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My old one works just fine, thank you.

  • Having had both a zx-spectrum and a before that the Sinclair zx-81, I can tell you that the spectrum keyboard was a designed improvement. The 81 had this flexible plastic sheet with raised, rounded bumps for all the keys. You would press down until to bump flattened and you hit hard plastic to know that you had typed.

    Other than that, the keyboard entry was much the same as the spectrum. Each letter on the keyboard mapped a command, a symbol, and a graphic character as well as a letter. Programming in basic

  • My original one from 1982 is still working.

  • At least I could use it with my NedoPC ZX Evo. http://nedopc.com/zxevo/zxevo.php
    Which is pretty cool, Mini-ITX format ZX Spectrum compatible motherboard ;-)

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