ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

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ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Greenious » Wed Apr 26, 2017 8:47 pm

While not Atari news, many of us also has a certain interest in other platforms, and this is cool...

ZX Spectrum enthusiasts got a kickstarter going a few days ago aimed at making a modern variant of the old classic.

The ZX Spectrum Next: a new machine, fully compatible with the original computer, and packed with improvements and expansions.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1835143999/zx-spectrum-next/description
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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby farvardin » Wed Apr 26, 2017 9:05 pm

very nice, but expensive as hell!

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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby alexh » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:36 pm

FPGA is too small to do anything great. MiST FPGA is approx 200% bigger FPGArcade is about 500% bigger

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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Dal » Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:18 pm

alexh wrote:FPGA is too small to do anything great. MiST FPGA is approx 200% bigger FPGArcade is about 500% bigger


Some could argue this is what allows the Spectrum Next to retain some of the spirit of the original machine.
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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby 10p6 » Wed Apr 26, 2017 11:59 pm

I have backed them, but mainly so my son can play with programming here in the USA as my 128K model is a pain to use on USA TV's. I agree the FPGA is to small though. It is one thing having the nostalgia of the original, but since they are including one, then make it capable of doing many machines in one. Maybe I should start working on Project 13130 again.

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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Greenious » Thu Apr 27, 2017 4:04 pm

farvardin wrote:very nice, but expensive as hell!


Small scale production is expensive. It is sadly the reality of retro computing. But compared to buying a speccy and pimp it up, the price is actually not bad at all...

Otoh, well made retrogear usually maintain a decent second hand value, compared to all the PCs, Macs, TVs, VHS/DVD-Players, Walkmans, stereos, telephones etc that I have thrown over the years, my retrocomputing habit is comparably cheap... :)

alexh wrote:FPGA is too small to do anything great. MiST FPGA is approx 200% bigger FPGArcade is about 500% bigger


Well, the original design FPGA seems to be able to handle not only a stock spectrum with modern amenities such as HDMI and SD-card, but also accelerator, extra videomodes with spriteengine and more... Not really seeing the point of going overboard?

Dal wrote:Some could argue this is what allows the Spectrum Next to retain some of the spirit of the original machine.


With like 50(!) clones of the Spectrum, I suspect that a poll on what is the spirit of the machine would be a very diverse and interesting read. :)

For most is what they see, hear and feel, what is under the hood is less important.

Personally, the fact it has all the spectrums ports, is a spectrum, and either fits in an original case (albeit with some work...) or in a very spectrum inspired newly manufactured one, makes it as good as it's gonna get.

The coolest thing about this is that it makes getting (back) in the speccy scene supereasy, and you do it in style... you don't need to buy a used speccy, fixing it up, add hardware and start by messing with tapes again... It's hassle free, and 99% of people hate mucking around with hardware, not to mention a soldering iron..

In many ways, this is like someone designing an ST(E), with integrated accelerator, FPU, hardware overscan + other hardware improvements people have come up with over the years, added HDMI/VGA output, SD-card etc while still keeping all the ST's ports and thrown in a few more videomodes with a spriteengine for good measure, made it fit in an ST case or designed a new atari-inspired one, all for the price of buying an all out pimped STE. without the hassle...

Looking at the kickstarter, they got like 1450 backers, 60 of them opt for the board only, more than 1300 is going for the out-of-the-box ready experience at double the price. ie, the case alone is to most worth more than what is under the hood.

While I adore MiST, IMHO, putting just a stock ST(E) in an FPGA in a plain black box without most of the original ports alienates a huge potential audience. My friends can go gaga over my old ataris/retrogear, but to them, the MiST has no soul whatsoever.
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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Total Eclipse » Fri Apr 28, 2017 9:52 am

Greenious wrote:In many ways, this is like someone designing an ST(E), with integrated accelerator, FPU, hardware overscan + other hardware improvements people have come up with over the years, added HDMI/VGA output, SD-card etc while still keeping all the ST's ports and thrown in a few more videomodes with a spriteengine for good measure, made it fit in an ST case or designed a new atari-inspired one, all for the price of buying an all out pimped STE. without the hassle...

Looking at the kickstarter, they got like 1450 backers, 60 of them opt for the board only, more than 1300 is going for the out-of-the-box ready experience at double the price. ie, the case alone is to most worth more than what is under the hood.

While I adore MiST, IMHO, putting just a stock ST(E) in an FPGA in a plain black box without most of the original ports alienates a huge potential audience. My friends can go gaga over my old ataris/retrogear, but to them, the MiST has no soul whatsoever.


That's an interesting point of view. I too am a fan of MiST, and the work done on some cores, including the Spectrum one, is incredible. What does the Spectrum Next offer over a FPGA board like the MiST? For some, I think that the Spectrum name, and the case design, carries more weight than the contents.

A MiST is cheaper than a Next, its Spectrum core has a faster maximum CPU speed than the Next ("accelerator" aside (which is Pi Zero)), and the MiST has the FPGA space to run many more cores. However, as you suggest, the packaging itself makes a difference - witness many positive comments made about simple case renderings. If your MiST was hidden inside a ST case, maybe even making use of the original keyboard, would that give it a soul?

The "enhancements" are also interesting (sprites, 256 colour modes), but that got me thinking as well. This "new" Spectrum will only be known to a few, so is it really a Spectrum at all? That then raises a further question about plugging together parts to make a new core (rather like the MiST tutorials, where a CPU is added to a video generator) - based on the features and cores already available for MiST, what would you pick and chose to put into a totally new MiST computer? A 68020 CPU? SID sound? A video mode from an existing machine (tile mode from the MegaDrive perhaps)?
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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby wongck » Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:00 pm

Good luck with it.
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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Greenious » Fri Apr 28, 2017 3:16 pm

Total Eclipse wrote:
That's an interesting point of view. I too am a fan of MiST, and the work done on some cores, including the Spectrum one, is incredible. What does the Spectrum Next offer over a FPGA board like the MiST? For some, I think that the Spectrum name, and the case design, carries more weight than the contents.

It offers the original ports of the spectrum, and a equivalent yet modern keyboard. It appeals to everyone in one way or another, from the hardcore spectrum fan to those who threw their spectrum away years ago to retrosceeners in general. Unlike Spectrum Vega, this is a complete machine.

The kickstarter got fairly good coverage in the press aswell. I'd say many of those supporting the kickstarter probably got no speccy today, they just want to relive the past (in a modern way)...

I'll be following the KS, I think there will be much to learn from it for the retroscene at large.

A MiST is cheaper than a Next, its Spectrum core has a faster maximum CPU speed than the Next ("accelerator" aside (which is Pi Zero)), and the MiST has the FPGA space to run many more cores. However, as you suggest, the packaging itself makes a difference - witness many positive comments made about simple case renderings. If your MiST was hidden inside a ST case, maybe even making use of the original keyboard, would that give it a soul?

In all fairness, the board alone is £99, but you are essentially correct. The packaging is way more important than people tend to think.
I miss many things with the MiST, like ports. The box itself is plain boring, and black at that. I hate using a PC keyboard but have no problem using a modern mouse... many small details make up for what constitutes as soul I think.

Yet, MiST is optimal for it's current state Imho, it still got some ways to go before it is a realistic alternative to atari hw (depending on what you actually use it for obviously), and it's current form is probably the best crowd-development platform for the retroscene there is. Once it reaches a point where it basically is a Mega STE, a similar kickstarter to the spectrum next one might be feasible I think.

The "enhancements" are also interesting (sprites, 256 colour modes), but that got me thinking as well. This "new" Spectrum will only be known to a few, so is it really a Spectrum at all? That then raises a further question about plugging together parts to make a new core (rather like the MiST tutorials, where a CPU is added to a video generator) - based on the features and cores already available for MiST, what would you pick and chose to put into a totally new MiST computer? A 68020 CPU? SID sound? A video mode from an existing machine (tile mode from the MegaDrive perhaps)?


My personal wishlist for a MiST equivalent only involves 68000, putting a 68020 or 68030 in an ST-core is something I'm not interested in, trying to turn an ST into an F030 or TT is just a freakshow Imho. Obviously, I'd like to see true TT and Falcon cores some day... Otoh, other people may reason differently than me, and the beauty of a FPGA is that they are free to replace the CPU for a 68020 in their ST-core if they want to... :)

As for expansions, most people want accelerators and videocards, speeding up the 68k CPU, (T36 for the ST managed 36MHz), and a decent 1024x768 resolution (ET4000 compatible) videomode aswell. As for picking hardware from other machines, I'm sure people have ideas around that, but I think the first priority should be the wellknown and coveted hardware mods that exist, such as accelerator, videocards, FPU, overscan, altRAM, network etc, and once you got that down, work on the unique features that will need completely new software development if you think that is necessary, which pretty much seems to be the route the team behind Spectrum Next has taken.
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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Zarchos » Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:59 am

I too saw this Spectrum, new flavour, and immediately thought the V6Z80P existed already, and wondered 'why do we need yet another machine ?'
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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby siriushardware » Wed May 31, 2017 11:33 pm

I still have my original Spectrum and the means to load software into it at high speed, so that will probably fulfil my Spectrum needs for the forseeable future.

Both the Vega and the 'Recreated ZX Spectrum' widely missed the mark, the Vega because it unforgivably did not have a keyboard - and the RZXS because it appeared to be a Spectrum-lookalike bluetooth keyboard and an emulator to run on your Android or Apple device. This third effort at least seems to be what those two should have tried to be in the first place. I think the new modern-version keyboard looks really nice.

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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Kubik » Thu Jun 01, 2017 7:37 am

farvardin wrote:very nice, but expensive as hell!

The price was supposed to be exactly the same as ZX Spectrum when released. Actually, due to inflation, it's much cheaper - those 175GPB in prices of 1982 would correspond to something like 500 GPB nowadays.

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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby farvardin » Thu Jun 01, 2017 9:31 am

yes, you're right Kubik. In fact 175 GPB is 200 €, the price for my MiST. The ZX Spectrum reborn has a nice case (real injection, not 3D print) and keyboard, an FPGA with many features and much R&D behind, so the price is quite fair. Maybe it would have been more attractive to someone like me if this one could also host more different cores (maybe it will be possible), but anyway with no USB it won't be able to get a mouse and / or a joypad like on the MiST. I'm using MiST for ZX spectrum, but also for Atari ST, Amiga... I wouldn't dedicate 200 € "only" for a spectrum.

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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Kubik » Thu Jun 01, 2017 12:00 pm

I'd guess implementing other cores should be possible, however, this isn't about having thousands of cores - that's what Mist (or ZX Uno) is for. This is a new ZX Spectrum, with modern design, modern technology, modern features, and yet backward compatible as much as possible, including HW compatibility. It's how ZX Spectrum would look if it was designed today :)

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Re: ZX Spectrum reborn in a kickstarter

Postby Greenious » Thu Jun 01, 2017 4:01 pm

ZX Spectrum Next is a completely different beast compared to toys like the Vega and Spectrum recreated, although I admit the term toy in this regard is kinda subjective. But in all honesty, a Vega equivalent of the Atari ST would likely be laughed at in this forum...

Anyway, since this is FPGA based, other cores will be available eventually, and there is already quite a long list of arcades and 8-bit systems already running on the prototypes, but I guess it will feel a bit strange running a C64 or MSX on a box that looks like a Spectrum... The FPGA is small compared to the MiST, and the memory is small and 8 bit wide at that, so I doubt it will be able to run any 16-bit systems very well, if at all. Considering the involved developers, I think you can expect atleast an MSX core that will be really good.

Also, the optionals are cheap and easy to install, if you want USB added it's only like $10. So I think they got a good balance between those wanting it as oldskool as possible, and those wanting it as modern as possible.

Anyway, comparing it to MiST is kinda awkward, in so many ways they appeal to different audiences, for 8-bit nuts MiST provides power they will never use, while for general retro fans the Next falls short on flexibility, then we got a retro case vs a boring black box, and so on. I personally just love the fact that manufacturing of these things in such small runs are economically possible, that we have diversity and the effect it is having on the retroscene at large.
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