The rarely-seen but often talked (or complained) about Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega+ was spotted in the wild at the weekend by a Retro Gaming Magazine contributor.
The controversial console, which has been subject to extended production delays and much legal wrangling since company directors fell out in a major split last year was seen – and handled – by this reporter at an unrelated event in Nottingham, England on Saturday.
The Vega+, pictured here atop an original ZX Spectrum for scale, is a follow-on to the Vega mini-console, which was reasonably popular and even reached selected shopping chains in the UK, but instead of offering a severely cut-down keyboard, built-in joypad and use of TV as display, its newer and smarter brother has been re-cast in a PSP-style handheld case with built-in LCD screen, joypad and four button control system plus various ports at rear.
Like its predecessor, the Sir Clive Sinclair-backed, British-made Vega+ has been crowdfunded on Indiegogo, with more than £500,000 UK pounds raised from backers, but it has yet to see the light of day despite considerable online angst over its late appearance (the now-closed Indiegogo page states an estimated time of arrival of September 2016).
Online sightings provided by London-based makers Retro Computers Limited have so far only been as slick computer renderings based on Rick Dickinson designs (he did the industrial design for the much-loved original 1982 ‘Speccy’) or below-par photographs and videos of small numbers of prototypes or pre-production mockups, calling its very existence into question according to some.
The working prototype seen by Stuart Williams on Saturday was, however, while clearly unfinished, solidly moulded and comfortable in the hand, with temporary external logo stickers, plus somewhat unresponsive control buttons (though we are told there are other, later prototypes which work better) and had done the rounds with some wear-and-tear evident. It was, however, booting up and running, with the legendary Jet Pac clearly pictured as seen here.
Like its predecessor, the Vega+ has been promoted as being sold complete with 1,000 games, with more potentially loadable via SD card, but the goalposts on this front have been shifting rapidly in recent months, as it emerged that the console’s internal emulation software had, following the departure of two unhappy company directors, to be replaced from the original planned and many of the games which had been lined up needed to be withdrawn and replaced with new ones due to developers and publishers allegedly pulling out.
How that will all pan out remains to be seen, as the games on the prototype pictured are apparently not the finalised list which will hopefully be shipped with it sooner rather than later.
What we can confirm is that there ARE working but clearly pre-production prototypes out there, and this at least is good news for unhappy backers, some of whom have been looking to pull their support due to the delays and relative information vacuum regarding production, though the company has been providing more updates recently.
For more information, check out the Indiegogo page and company website for updates from Retro Computers Limited, and the various Facebook groups dedicated to the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, where discussion has reached fever pitch. Meanwhile, the saga is ongoing.
Pictures by Stuart Williams