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The ZX Spectrum Next - Kickstarter Now Live! : Now Funded!


Robo_1
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Yeah, it's an FPGA custom programmed to emulate the Z80 and AY and I presume ROM, ULA and Memory chips (so it's hardware), instead of it being an off the shelf ARM processor with an OS emulating a spectrum in software.

 

The good thing with that is its field programmable, meaning hey can improve or add new features with firmware updates.

 

Im presuming they've managed to "emulate" the whole spectrum in a single FPGA, so hardware based.

 

i think.

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Depends who you speak to. Hardware engineers would say it's not emulation. Emulation is software. Here we have an FPGA programmed to act like something else.

 

FPGA is probably better, I think AY chips are rare these days. And hopefully it's more reliable!

 

anyway here's an interesting debate on FPGA v emulation here

 

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/214898-fpga-vs-emulation-what-is-your-choice/

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  • 1 month later...

Update on the ZX Spectrum Next facebook group:

 

Quote

Big update time!

 

One of our biggest challenges is to make the Spectrum Next an affordable machine. We want everyone to be able to buy one, but at the same time we absolutely won't compromise on the specs and quality. In the past couple of months we've been reworking the design to employ different components (Xilinx vs Altera FPGA, different types of memory etc.) aiming at reducing the cost. We did quite well, actually, until Brexit came along and set us back a bit by dropping the Pound (some say it could go as low as Dollar parity!) So while we managed to cut costs, the costs caught up with us again (all our parts are in $).

 

This resulted in the current price of the Spectrum Next to be around £160 including the accelerator board -- less than the original Speccy went on sale for in the 80s, but still more than we hoped we would get at. We've sourced partners in China and Hong Kong aiming to bring down the price, but it's unlikely we'll hit the under-100 'holy grail' mark unless we manage to get more than 5,000 units sold, which we believe to be unlikely. It's a catch-22: Higher price results in less units sold, which in turn makes the units more expensive. If only Kickstarter allowed the pledges' values to change the more people pledged... Now that would be perfect!

 

So, we'll go ahead with the crowdfunding shortly, as there's very little left to gain in terms of savings. Next stage: create the campaign and launch it!

Meanwhile, in other news...

 

1. Devkits

 

We're shipping a few hand-made devkits this month to some clever and well known developers who expressed interest in creating exclusive games for the Spectrum Next. This might result in the computer shipping with unique, brand-new software for it. How cool is that?

 

2. Revamped OS

 

We've been discussing the possibility of expanding the OS of the Spectrum Next with a few new features and commodities. This has affected the main board design a bit, but for the better.

 

3. Crowdfunding date

 

The original plan of starting the campaign on Kickstarter in June is now pushed back around a couple of months. The philosophy remains the same: we'll only take the project into backing once we're absolutely sure of every variable at play, minimising any risks to backers. That said, we've there now, it's just a matter of creating the campaign's materials (videos etc.)

 

That's it for now!

 

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  • 5 weeks later...

Legendary Spectrum programmer Jim Bagley has just posted the early fruits of his time with the Next dev kit. Impressive stuff I have to say, the Next could really deliver some great software. Hope they don't go crazy and they're able to keep the games looking like Speccy games.

 

 

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The dilemma I have is this would be a great machine for programmers, or people who wanted to get into it. A really good community of programmers working on stuff together would make this machine really shine. I'm not a programmer, and despite trying in my youth and having an interest, I simply do not have the time and patience to really make the most of something like this. Would love to make flashy, exciting arcade games and demos. Will keep an eye on how hobbyists react to this.

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On 11/07/2016 at 09:49, Swainy said:

 

Because it's not a normal Spectrum.

 

I hate to tell you, this is in no way a normal spectrum neither.

 

It's running hardware emulation as opposed to software emulation. They are still emulators, just using different methods to achieve the same end goal.

 

I personally do not fancy a raspberry pi in a box and call it a "spectrum", and was looking forward to this device.

 

However the fact that it has capabilities above and beyond what the spectrum could do, means this device is now pointless. I don't want to play spectrum games with 256x 16x16 sprites. They simply are NOT spectrum games.

 

If they had hardware emulated a spectrum, in a fantastic case, with sdcard loading, plus a mic and ear socket for my tapes, i would be all in 100%

 

But this machine is not a spectrum. Its absolutely pointless.

 

 

 

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Isn't there a universe somewhere where the humble Spectrum was upgraded to be able to display larger sprites at greater frequencies? Is it really heresy to make it a reality?

 

Having said that, I do think Speccy nostalgia is a funny one. Even though my memories of the machine are pretty much limited to playing Jack The Nipper and Batman round a mates house I still feel weirdly possessive (?) about them in all their colour clashing glory.

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35 minutes ago, spanky debrest said:

Isn't there a universe somewhere where the humble Spectrum was upgraded to be able to display larger sprites at greater frequencies? Is it really heresy to make it a reality?

 

Having said that, I do think Speccy nostalgia is a funny one. Even though my memories of the machine are pretty much limited to playing Jack The Nipper and Batman round a mates house I still feel weirdly possessive (?) about them in all their colour clashing glory.

 

Absolutely, that is what defines the spectrum. Who wants to play an enhanced emulated  "spectrum" in 2016?

 

Spectrum's also exist, you can but one from ebay right now. They have RGB outputs and you can use your actual tapes or an sd card with it for an extra outlay to save those loading times. It will cost LESS than this new device, and you will feel so much better you went down that route.

 

If you accept that you want to emulate, why pay hundreds for a fpga instead of under £5 for a pi zero? They are both emulation, they are both fake.

 

As for new games released for this "enhanced spectrum", who on earth would buy those? Like you i want to play jack the nipper, or any attack, or spy hunter. ALL with colour clash.

 

 

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I wouldn't call FPGA recreation of pure digital logic circuits "emulation". Assuming they're working from the original datasheets/specs, it's essentially a replica, albiet one that can be put together dynamically.

 

That only applies for pure digital logic, though - sound output will involve a DAC somewhere (potentially integrated into the AY chip), so there's a chance it might sound a bit fruity.

 

Quite interested in this for replaying some of the classics - I'm assuming it'll have TZX and Save State support? I can't say the extended graphics mode has huge appeal, but it would be nice if old devs could release "HD refresh" versions of their games (hopefully leaving gameplay logic intact) and earn some money, rather than it just being a big ROM party.

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2 hours ago, ulala said:

But this machine is not a spectrum. Its absolutely pointless.

 

For myself and others, it scratches the itch of seeing the Spectrum evolve. It's designed by Rick Dickinson, will play classic Spec games via SD card or cassette and yes, will have upgraded modes for developers to build new Speccy games from.

 

I've got six or seven devices which can play Spec games, the Next isn't about that, it's about wanting to be part of the continuing Speccy story and owning a new box with the Spectrum branding. In Russia they've been playing with the Speccy specs for years, building games which go beyond the limits of the old machine. A lot of classic and active Spectrum developers have exhausted the capabilities of the Spectrum (just see games like Doom, Mortal Kombat and Castelvania), the scene needs something fresh and I think this is it.

You're absolutely entitled to your view, but there is real excitement amongst many Spec fans for this project and it goes beyond the mechanics of having a new plastic box to play old Speccy games.

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2 hours ago, spanky debrest said:

Isn't there a universe somewhere where the humble Spectrum was upgraded to be able to display larger sprites at greater frequencies? Is it really heresy to make it a reality?

 

The Russian Spectrum clones of the early 1990s offered faster hardware and more RAM, without sacrificing (too much) backward compatibility.

 

The Spectrum Next's appeal is largely based on its UK origins and the case design (as far as I can tell). We've already had FPGA-based machines like the ZX Evolution that offered backward compatibility and upgraded hardware, but they've failed to gain traction.

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30 minutes ago, Robo_1 said:

 

For myself and others, it scratches the itch of seeing the Spectrum evolve. It's designed by Rick Dickinson, will play classic Spec games via SD card or cassette and yes, will have upgraded modes for developers to build new Speccy games from.

 

I've got six or seven devices which can play Spec games, the Next isn't about that, it's about wanting to be part of the continuing Speccy story and owning a new box with the Spectrum branding. In Russia they've been playing with the Speccy specs for years, building games which go beyond the limits of the old machine. A lot of classic and active Spectrum developers have exhausted the capabilities of the Spectrum (just see games like Doom, Mortal Kombat and Castelvania), the scene needs something fresh and I think this is it.

You're absolutely entitled to your view, but there is real excitement amongst many Spec fans for this project and it goes beyond the mechanics of having a new plastic box to play old Speccy games.

 

This is pretty much how I feel too. I'm looking forward a bit of coding in basic and being able to ramp the speed up a bit to make some of my older attempts a bit more playable.

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3 hours ago, ulala said:

 

I hate to tell you, this is in no way a normal spectrum neither.

 

It's running hardware emulation as opposed to software emulation. They are still emulators, just using different methods to achieve the same end goal.

 

I personally do not fancy a raspberry pi in a box and call it a "spectrum", and was looking forward to this device.

 

However the fact that it has capabilities above and beyond what the spectrum could do, means this device is now pointless. I don't want to play spectrum games with 256x 16x16 sprites. They simply are NOT spectrum games.

 

If they had hardware emulated a spectrum, in a fantastic case, with sdcard loading, plus a mic and ear socket for my tapes, i would be all in 100%

 

But this machine is not a spectrum. Its absolutely pointless.

 

 

 

 

Thing is, I own plenty of ZX Spectrum's. If I want to play games on them, I still can and enjoy them with colour clash.

 

However, I always wanted to see a Spectrum +4. I always wanted to see Spectrum games without colour clash, even if they still only had 15 colours. With the Spectrum Next I might get that chance.

 

i spoke to Jim Bagley a couple of weeks ago at Revival and we both said wouldn't it be nice to have the option of no colour clash (you can take a listen here http://traffic.libsyn.com/retroasylum/Revival_2016_Podcast.mp3 ) as at the moment the guys actually putting the Spectrum Next together have not implemented that option yet... Although Jim has clearly found a way around this.

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I go back and forth on colour clash. There’s actually pretty advanced ways of hiding it these days, but it’s such a classic Spec trait, that I wonder if getting rid of it is a good idea. Had this come out to compete against the Amiga, then yes totally, it should have been on the top of the list, but given that this machine is a bit of a wink to the nostalgia train, I think the new games should look like Spectrum games. Maybe a few more colours, smoother scrolling, more action on screen but I hope the new games still look like Spec games.

 

They could always have an option in the games / machine to play with different screen modes I guess, PC style options in a Spec game, haha.

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1 hour ago, Swainy said:

i spoke to Jim Bagley a couple of weeks ago at Revival and we both said wouldn't it be nice to have the option of no colour clash (you can take a listen here http://traffic.libsyn.com/retroasylum/Revival_2016_Podcast.mp3 ) as at the moment the guys actually putting the Spectrum Next together have not implemented that option yet... Although Jim has clearly found a way around this.

 

A spectrum without colour clash? Think about what you are saying Dean... say it aint so..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I know, for a lot of people the colour clash is what made the Spectrum what it is and I am someone who can see past the colour clash. However, I did use to imagine what it would be like to have a Spectrum that got around the problem.

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4 hours ago, ulala said:

 

I hate to tell you, this is in no way a normal spectrum neither.

 

It's running hardware emulation as opposed to software emulation. They are still emulators, just using different methods to achieve the same end goal.

 

I personally do not fancy a raspberry pi in a box and call it a "spectrum", and was looking forward to this device.

 

However the fact that it has capabilities above and beyond what the spectrum could do, means this device is now pointless. I don't want to play spectrum games with 256x 16x16 sprites. They simply are NOT spectrum games.

 

If they had hardware emulated a spectrum, in a fantastic case, with sdcard loading, plus a mic and ear socket for my tapes, i would be all in 100%

 

But this machine is not a spectrum. Its absolutely pointless.

 

 

 

 

Doesn't this machine meet your requirements though?  Is the enhanced spec a different mode?  In which case, just don't use that mode.  I haven't followed this closely at all, so maybe I'm way off.

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Well just as an example, here is Renegade without colour clash but using the normal Spectrum colours.

 

774BAFC7-DF74-45B0-A56D-775004D7C200_zps

 

Admittedly the masking around the characters looks a bit odd when the are near detailed backgrounds such as the rug. I think it still has a Speccy vibe to it.

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1 hour ago, Swainy said:

Well just as an example, here is Renegade without colour clash but using the normal Spectrum colours.

 

774BAFC7-DF74-45B0-A56D-775004D7C200_zps

 

Admittedly the masking around the characters looks a bit odd when the are near detailed backgrounds such as the rug. I think it still has a Speccy vibe to it.

 

Yeah, I'd say that still looks like a Speccy game still. In fact I'd be happy if that was the evolution we saw with Next games. Nice Photoshop work, could be something to share on the main Next FB group?

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