A brand-new Sinclair Spectrum home computer has been launched, just in time to celebrate the 35th birthday of the iconic original 48k British gaming classic.
This latest and most promising homage to Sir Clive Sinclair’s classic ZX Spectrum+ has been dubbed the ‘Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next’ by new UK manufacturers SpecNext Ltd. The company has its registered office at 135 Bermondsey Street, London, and was incorporated on February 9, 2016 by game designer Carlos Henrique Olifiers, Co-Founder of BAFTA-winning games developers Bossa Studios.
And, by combining a slick modern take on the classic Spectrum+ exterior design, once again created by original Spectrum designer Rick Dickinson, with powerful modern electronics designed by gifted Brazilian retro hacker Victor Trucco, the latest ‘Speccy’ to hit the market looks like it’s going to be a hot product –- though we will have to wait a while yet before the real thing is available, as the delivery estimate is currently January 2018. Also behind the project are Brazilian computer scientist and key figure in the MSX hardware scene in Brazil Fabio Belavenuto, plus celebrated British ZX Spectrum developer Jim Bagley, who is responsible for several of the Next’s new functions and drives the platform’s development requirements.
A Speccy for all seasons?
Officially licensed through intellectual property holders Sky In-Home Service Limited. The ZX Spectrum Next is clearly an upgraded homage to the classic 1980s micro rather than a traditional chip-by-chip clone. Despite this, the concept, which to date has been seen both in 3D renderings and as working prototype developers boards, has been very well-received amongst the ‘retro community’ so far, perhaps due the fact it is being pitched as a development to take the Sinclair brand into the future –- and due to its adoption of the modernised Spectrum+ style case and keyboard, unlike the popular but sometimes controversial Vega range of hand-held consoles produced by Retro Computers Limited, who have been mired in controversy over legal wrangling and extended production delays for the latest Vega+ following a split between company directors last year.
The ZX Spectrum Next is based on Victor Trucco’s previous project, the TBBlue, and the FPGA-based board which will form the heart of the next Speccy is expected to be similar. The Next is a reimplementation of the original at hardware level, ensuring it runs all the software out there. And it’s also planned to be compatible with most expansions made for the ZX Spectrum, as well as being compatible with new ULAplus video modes and more.
The SD card ‘disk’ operating system used is ESXDOS, and the new machine will be compatible with all the original Sinclair ZX Spectrum versions including 48k, 128k (Toastrack), +2 and +3. In fact, amazingly, the Spectrum Next will also be compatible with Brazilian Speccy clones the TK90X and TK95, as well as the Sinclair ZX80, ZX81, and Jupiter Ace!
21st century Speccy
Here’s what’s under the hood of the new machine:
- Processor: Z80 3.5Mhz and 7Mhz modes
- Memory: 512Kb RAM (expandable to 1.5Mb internally and 2.5Mb externally)
- Video: Hardware sprites, 256 colours mode, Timex 8×1 mode etc.
- Video Output: RGB, VGA, HDMI
- Storage: SD Card slot, with DivMMC-compatible protocol
- Audio: 3x AY-3-8912 audio chips with stereo output + FM sound
- Joystick: DB9 compatible with Cursor, Kempston and Interface 2 protocols (selectable)
- PS/2 port: Mouse with Kempston mode emulation and an external keyboard
- Special: Multiface functionality for memory access, savegames, cheats, etc.
- Tape support: Mic and Ear ports for tape loading and saving
- Expansion: Original external bus expansion port and accelerator expansion port
- Accelerator board (optional): GPU / 1Ghz CPU / 512Mb RAM
- Network (optional): Wi-Fi module
- Extras: Real Time Clock (optional), internal speaker (optional)
We can confirm, after speaking directly to the electronics designer, Victor Trucco, that the computer’s power supply will be bi-voltage 100V to 240V AC, with output 9v DC to the ZX Spectrum Next. This means it will work in the UK, Europe, USA and any other country that meets those standards. Video output available is also both PAL and NTSC where applicable.
Do you want to know more?
The original Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k was launched on April 23, 1982 — 35 years ago today.
The company website offers basic info about the ZX Spectrum Next, plus the opportunity to sign up for a newsletter and further information. The latest details, including pledge levels and prices, are outlined on the Kickstarter page.
There is also already a busy ZX Spectrum Next group on Facebook.
UPDATE As of 24th April 2017, the ZX Spectrum Next Kickstarter has been fully funded, with 28 days to go.
Pictures courtesy SpecNext Ltd