Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega

The Indiegogo campaign to create a game-controllerified Speccy has been funded in 1 day!

As I write this, the crowd-funded project (to which Sir Clive Sinclair has lent his support) is sitting @ £110K, with the funding target @ £100K, which will fund 1,000 units.

Personally, my hopes were raised when I read about the project through social media links. The nitty gritty specifications are:

  • Smaller than original Spectrum – “controller” sized for use two-handed as a controller.
  • Has 4 direction keys plus another 5 keys of unknown function (presumably programmable somehow). The dead flesh keyboard of the original Spectrum has gone (though there is supposed to be an onscreen keyboard).
  • Has composite video output only (no HDMI or other high quality video output). Video connector on the back of the unit.
  • Is powered through a second connection on the back.
  • No other expansion connectors.
  • SD reader/writer built-in.
  • 1,000 bundled games (though rights to these games are not yet secured).
  • ARM based emulation of Spectrum functionality.

As I analyzed the specs however, I had a gradual sinking feeling. If the unit featured the following I’d be a lot more excited:

  • Full keyboard (dropping the keyboard seems like a major shortcoming).
  • HDMI connector (composite video in 2014?)  Apparently HDMI is too expensive/complicated.
  • Ethernet.
  • Joystick connector (USB).

I’d even consider cracking open the old Z80 assembler if the device was more full featured. It’s not clear how you could do remote development for the device without more connections to the outside, for example. Copying files to SD would be a pain. Perhaps there’s a way hook up some sort of downloader. I suppose there are numerous ways to do Speccy development using emulators, but it’d be cool to have an easy to use real hardware target.

I’m not sure how this device is really any better than a Raspberry Pi , which would offer much more functionality at a fraction of the cost. Embed a Rasp Pi in a new case, done.

The crowd-sourced units are pretty expensive for what they are too – £100 each!

Having said all this, the crowd-sourced fundraising was very successful. There’s definitely a latent fondness for the old Spectrum machine, and this project seems to have ignited that.

Posted by Steve Wetherill

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