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

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Baggers In Space is looking wonderful, there's some great games in development for the Next, I'll include a few vids below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To keep track of future Spec Next releases, there's this website: http://www.spectrumnextgames.uk/

 

One of the biggest titles headed to the next is from the team which created the phenomenal Castlevania: Spectral Interlude. It's currently going by the name of No Mercy, and is promising to be a bit of a spiritual follow up to Target: Renegade. No videos have been posted yet, but this early screen is promising.

 

No+Mercy.png

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On 09/05/2016 at 23:57, Robo_1 said:

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I don't know this platform very well, and i don't see many games on it that would make the product ''attractive''. Is there any game for it that is more than a simple casual game?

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There’s plenty of Spectrum games that are decent if that is what you mean plus there are some pretty decent looking titles in development for the Next.

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4 hours ago, wanderai said:

Is there any game that is really a *game* on the ZX? All games that i ever played on it was simple casual games, i don't see how this thing would sell.

 

Have you ever actually played on one? I mean the thing has over 1000 games for it.

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5 hours ago, Lorfarius said:

 

Have you ever actually played on one? I mean the thing has over 1000 games for it.

I have played on emulators, but i never played on one.

What games do you recommend? I don't really know any game beside these.

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3 minutes ago, wanderai said:

I have played on emulators, but i never played on one.

What games do you recommend? I don't really know any game beside these.

R-Type, Target: Renegade, Chase H.Q, Cybernoid, Manic Miner, Jet Pac, Robocop, Batman The Movie, Head Over Heels, Skool Daze, Back To Skool... There’s loads mate.

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1 minute ago, Swainy said:

R-Type, Target: Renegade, Chase H.Q, Cybernoid, Manic Miner, Jet Pac, Robocop, Batman The Movie, Head Over Heels, Skool Daze, Back To Skool... There’s loads mate.

Aight, i'll take a look on them, thankss.

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4 hours ago, wanderai said:

I have played on emulators, but i never played on one.

What games do you recommend? I don't really know any game beside these.

Sekirio.

 

 

Nah just kidding, I meant Crysis :P

 

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Just to pick one from a bunch I played last night, "They stole a million" is anything but a "Casual game".

 

In fact it's basically opaque.

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:(

 

Project Update #45: ZX Spectrum Next by Henrique Olifiers

 

Deep breath: This update will start with let downs. What should have been a month of wrap-ups, turned out to be four weeks of disappointments with little to no progress on the keyboard.

Last month (February) we got the keyboard to a final state with a hand-assembled prototype, with a few minor tweaks requested before getting a small batch produced by the automated assembly line. These tweaks included a lighter press ‘Enter’ key, longer contact strips and 3mm screws rather than 2.5mm.

While we got all these changes made and two new keyboards were shipped to us and validated on all these fixes, they were also hand-assembled rather than produced by the automated assembly line as the final product will be. Because of this, we’re still waiting for automated samples to give the final go-ahead for the keyboard production, when we should have done so three or four weeks ago.

The silver lining is that we baked six weeks into the forecast of delivering the Nexts to the backers by the end of Q2 (June), so this delay doesn’t change the shipping date. Still, a very disappointing month where we were hoping the Next keyboard and case would enter full production, followed by overseas shipping to the assembly plant in Nottingham.

We’re now expecting the automated keyboard to be done in the next couple of weeks, then trigger the production.

You might be asking ‘why do we need automated assembly line samples to validate the keyboard into full production?’ and that’s a good question indeed, as all the parts used in the hand-assembled are the same parts used in the automated line, thus no variance should be expected -- except on the keyboard silicone domes placement.

The Next keyboard matrix (the contacts layer) have composite contacts for special keys such as arrows, Break, Edit, True Video etc. In order for these to work well (ie. register the key press of two keys at the same time to achieve the composite result, such as Shift and 2 for Caps Lock) the silicone dome that lies on top of the matrix has to be perfectly centered. If it’s a bit to one side, it will register the press of Shift+2 in the wrong order (such as 2+Shift), resulting in ‘2’ rather than Caps Lock. Only the automated assembly can achieve the precision required, the hand-assembled samples do not produce 100% accurate key presses as the domes can be glued to the matrix misaligned by human hands.

The keyboard manufacturer promised us a quick turnaround now, we’re on top of them to make sure this happens fast so we can move on to full production. All that’s left for us is to apologise for this letdown and double our ‘is it ready?’ requests rate to the engineers at the factory.

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Just got the update and again it’s really disappointing. It seems like forever that they’ve been, for want of a better word, dicking around with the keyboard. 

 

The other thing is that the Q2 shipping date seems to be June now, with the update in December being

 

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2018 is a goner…

When? And here we are: the year when the cased Spectrum Next should be with you has come and is almost gone, leaving our Christmas stockings empty of the full cased Next. We’ve shared with you how frustrating this has been for the entire team (not nearly as frustrating as it is for the backers), but now we can at least get more solid on the shipping date thanks to the recent developments on the keyboard.

With the convergence of all the last bits of the project, we’re keen to ship the Next as soon as we can -- and that’s looking like Q2 2019 the latest. We’ll burn the midnight oil to shave as much time from production as we can (never compromising on the quality!) and try to ship it earlier than Q2, but just to make we don’t promise and fail to deliver, that’s the official date.

 

So Q1 is now gone (so forget about “earlier than Q2”)  and now they’re talking about June, which is in Q2 but that didn’t feel like the case in December.

 

Ive said this before but the most frustrating thing about the Next is the constant disappointment of the uodates over the past 12 months. An update gives the impression that it’s more or less ready for mass production, then the next update implies it’s months away.

 

A simple example was the last update in February

 

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These changes are small. So small, in fact, we have given the ‘go-ahead’ for mass production, which will start any time now, in parallel to the injection moulding of the case.

 

Except the latest update is now the keyboard isn’t ready, it needs further automated production samples manufactured and tested before they go to mass production.

 

I totally understand that they’re not “professionals” in the sense of mass manufacturing a piece of computing hardware, but I am getting tired (even sick) of the updates showing a lack of project management, future planning or even trying to hit any deadlines. It does seem a bit naive that they go into every stage saying “we’re only a few weeks away” before uncovering more problems.  What’s even more frustrating is that they could probably tap into a load of experience from the community, but seem not to.

 

(Un)fortunately I’ve since got a +2 and bought a DivMMC Future for it and I’ve totally lost any excitement for the project now, because I’m now just playing Spectrum games and I’m now struggling to see what the Next is going to bring that’s really beyond what I can do just now.

I also can’t see me ever backing a crowdfunded campaign like this again.

 

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Having re-read the past two updates on my laptop (while the wife watches Line of Duty), my concern is now that they don't seem to grasp that making any changes, no matter how minor they might be, sets back the manufacturing process.

 

Feb 2019

 

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The keyboard is a "go"

It was a perfect fit, really. In our last update we had a sneak peak of the keyboard via a photo taken at the factory, right before it was shipped over to the team. Now we have tested it for the case fitting, and the happy news is that it just slides into the case as it was meant to.

Phil had the chance to put his clinic eye to the task, and the keyboard’s details through its paces, with just four tiny adjustments needed:

  • The Enter key felt heavier to press than the other keys;
  • Four keys missed the tweak to remove a tiny injection bulge;
  • The connector ribbons had to be extended a bit and;
  • The screws inserts should be 3mm rather than 2.5mm

 

Mar 2019

 

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While we got all these changes made and two new keyboards were shipped to us and validated on all these fixes, they were also hand-assembled rather than produced by the automated assembly line as the final product will be. Because of this, we’re still waiting for automated samples to give the final go-ahead for the keyboard production, when we should have done so three or four weeks ago.

 

Err, yeah, you suggest some changes to a manufacturer, of course they're not going to do mass production, instead they're going to make some samples for testing to make sure it's ready... before producing thousands of them (only to find out that there's a problem). 

 

Also reading some of the past updates, it's now really worrying just how much of these changes seem to be coming from Rick Dickinson Associates since Rick Dickinson passed in April. Phil Candy, of Rick Dickinson Associates, gets mentioned a lot, usually giving feedback on improving the existing design or wanting to make tweaks. It's interesting to see how those changes are then having a specific impact on the release date of the Next.

 

June Update

 

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Following our previous update where we got our hands on the first injection of the case, Phil Candy of Dickinson Associates has been hard at work with several rounds of feedback that finally got us to the end result we all have been waiting for: the case is getting ready after Phil, our plastics partner Brian and Mike Cadwallader ironed out every single detail to get it just right.

 

From small details such as getting the red 'redder' (it's the wrong red on the image above) or ensuring the right polish on this or that surface; to bending profiles to connector clearances... Only the keen eyes of an experienced moulder and designer such as Phil could catch them all, and luckily we have him on our side! Here he is inspecting the very first case moulded and feeling pretty happy with the way the raiser feet 'click' into place.

 

July Update

 

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Having seen the Next case in the flesh and being super happy with it, I was surprised when Phil asked for a few more tweaks while the keyboard is being finalised. I didn’t imagine the level of detail he would go into, bringing out the big guns (well, actually, more like a magnifying glass) and taking care of every bit of our machine, aiming at nothing less than perfection.

 

August Update

 

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With the final adjustments of the case requested by Phil, we have now tested it with screws inserts to allow it to be opened/closed multiple times without damage to the plastic threads. While this is a departure from the original plans of having the screws going into the plastic itself (just like in the original Spectrum and Spectrum+) we felt the hobbyist nature of the community required something built to last when allowing for opening and closing of the case for upgrades or hacks.

 

September update

 

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But… Phil picked up on something new. After a while (and some testing abuse), the left corner of the bottom part of the case developed a 3mm angle warping, coming slightly apart from the top case. We discussed this at length with the plastics partner, and the obvious solution was the addition of an extra screw. 

 

1st October Update

 

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These samples are en-route to the UK to undergo Phil's (Rick Dickinson Associates) scrutiny and feedback. They are missing the glossy finish on the lower step, and the texturing (including print) on the top. These are done once we give them the OK for the samples, and it's a straightforward surface job.

 

2nd October Update

 

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With the good news in hand, it’s feedback time to our manufacturer friends. The first issue Phil detected was an injection mark on the top of the keys, seen at an angle. This has to do with a width discrepancy of 0.15mm of some of the keys’ notches. With the wider notch, a depression appears on top of the square keys that is perceptible at an angle depending on light incidence.

 

November Update

 

Quote

Keyboard latest

There are good news here: the issues identified by Phil Candy (and shared in the previous update) on the injection of the keys and the small depression it was causing have been fixed, the keys now meet our expectations and look exactly as they should, including the polished finish around the key surface.

 

January update

 

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Second, you may recall from the September Update that Phil added some extra structures to the case to counter a slight bending effect we discussed back then. While the structures solved the problem, Phil wanted to have a deeper look into it.

With the help of a fellow member of the British Plastics Federation, Phil run an advanced plastics flow simulation, and together they found that adding extra cooling channels to the mold would result in a better injection and less reliance on the additional structures developed by Phil to keep the case straight as it should. So, why not? Therefore our partners are adding these cooling channels this week as they also believe it would be helpful with little risk to the mold itself.

 

February update

 

Quote

Phil had the chance to put his clinic eye to the task, and the keyboard’s details through its paces, with just four tiny adjustments needed:

 

Maybe there's a pattern here? Phil gives a bit of feedback on the design. There's an impact on the release schedule. 

 

I have serious doubts that this is going to get in the hands of backers within 12 weeks - seeing as they've said it's going to take another 2 weeks before they get the automated keyboard samples and then they can go into full production.

 

I can almost guarantee there's going to be an update where there's a suggested design improvement, because it just doesn't feel or look quite right, knocking back the release date by more months, because it's "better to have perfection" or "we've waited over 30 years for this, we thought a few months more would be worth it".

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I missed that post completely. Looking very nice now. Is thee a plan to have pack-in games (although I suppose the empty slot could also be for a power supply unit)?

 

Did the original 48k come with this pack? It was a long time ago so maybe I'm remembering wrong but jetpac, cooke and pssst were great. I'm afraid to try chequered flag again as I suspect it may not have aged well.

 

image.png.9d967a695380dc605e116f7715c73691.png

 

I also like the Batman pack in the background which brings back a lot of fond memories.

 

When are they expecting to send them out?

 

 

 

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12 minutes ago, crocked said:

I missed that post completely. Looking very nice now. Is thee a plan to have pack-in games (although I suppose the empty slot could also be for a power supply unit)?

 

When are they expecting to send them out?

 

 

 

 

No there aren't any pack in games. No one knows when it will release as they are still producing it, meant to be sometime this year.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Lorfarius said:

 

No there aren't any pack in games. No one knows when it will release as they are still producing it, meant to be sometime this year.

 

 

Well... there was supposed to be games released for it as part of the stretch goals -Rex Next and a next Dizzy game, but bugger all has been heard of them recently. 

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14 minutes ago, gone fishin' said:

Well... there was supposed to be games released for it as part of the stretch goals -Rex Next and a next Dizzy game, but bugger all has been heard of them recently. 

 

Those aren't going into the box though as pack ins but available as downloads.

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Not an unsurprising update, given the radio silence for the past few weeks. I guess it show how frustrating this Campaign has been (and probably the difference between some backers and others!). Personally, I don't mind bad news. I'd rather be told that something is being delayed, or there is nothing to update on as they're still waiting for an update from their supplied, on a regular basis (or at least on the date they promised the update), than them clearly waiting for some kind of positive update, getting none and then giving a disappointing update weeks behind schedule (I don't know what jobs they do in "real life", but that approach to updates is a nightmare to manage...). 

 

Maybe that's down to a lot of the backers having an attitude of "it will be ready when it's ready" or maybe it's a reflection of crowdfunded campaigns in general (people seem to think that just given an update, even if it's weeks behind schedule, is OK. But then judging from other crowd funding campaigns that have gone wrong, I can see why this might be seen as acceptable). 

 

It's hard not to be cynical about the update, they've clearly messed up with the keyboard implementation (instead of just going with a keyboard design that's tried and tested - because let's be honest, thousands of keyboards are made per day - they've gone with some bizarre hybrid of Spectrum membrane design  but while wanting a modern keyboard feel) but it's now either gone too far for them to make a change, or they're being too stubborn to do it. What's more surprising about the update is that the membrane issue that's now causing the delay appeared to be fixed months ago (except it turned out it seems they didn't really do any testing on the production membrane and the pre-production test membrane had a really high failure rate...but they didn't tell anyone that). 

 

But here's the kicker, the membrane is failing because it can't register double key presses (e.g. symbol shift and P to give a ") which to be fair on them, is a pretty major fault. However, you can literally buy replacement membranes for the Spectrum+ and 128k spectrum that work. But instead of just going with that approach, they tried to redesign the keyboard so it had a really light pressure of modern keyboards, but while the board could work with the original Spectrum, so it required a three layer membrane. Something that had never been done before. Something, we now learn, that they've never seen successfully implemented in the pre-production units. Something that now needs to be made, tested and put into assembly to get it in the hands of backers within 6 weeks (which they seem to kind of say in the latest update, but again without giving any actual concrete dates). 

 

The big worry, to me, is the membrane on the original Spectrum is notorious for failing. They've now created something that appears incredibly difficult to make and appears to be unique to the Next, potentially meaning a higher failure rate and more difficult for after market replacements. Hopefully the very creative Spectrum community will just make an after market membrane (even if it's based on the old double membrane style)...

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That's a really odd update. Because the pad layout for membrane buttons is not like some dark art. It's a well established design principle that's been around for decades, you interleve the two pads to avoid exactly the problem they were getting. The design with two adjacent semi circles, is one you would never use and the "Keyboard manufacturer " went along with it ?? and to fix it they did the same thing again only tighter?

 

Not exactly inspiring confidence in the hardware design.

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The keyboard design was designed and manufactured by a keyboard specialist company, apparently. Obviously, they were given the spec by the Next team but it was the keyboard people who provided the solution...which didn’t quite work...so it’s with them for alternatives. 

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1 hour ago, redballoon said:

The keyboard design was designed and manufactured by a keyboard specialist company, apparently. Obviously, they were given the spec by the Next team but it was the keyboard people who provided the solution...which didn’t quite work...so it’s with them for alternatives. 

Yes, but I would be somewhat concerned given the keyboad company used designs for the contact pads that anyone who has ever actually design a membrane keyboard would know don't work.

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40 minutes ago, redballoon said:

The keyboard design was designed and manufactured by a keyboard specialist company, apparently. Obviously, they were given the spec by the Next team but it was the keyboard people who provided the solution...which didn’t quite work...so it’s with them for alternatives. 

 

I don't think that's quite right, the keyboard was designed by Rick Dickinson with the goal being to have the board compatible with the original Spectrum, Spectrum + and Spectrum 128k cases (so the board backers could just "plop" in the Next board into an old Spectrum) while having a "featherlight" modern keyboard feel. That meant a three layer membrane design, which nobody has ever done before (as far as I can tell, anyway). 

 

They then took that design to a keyboard manufacturer.

 

The update way back in October (7 months ago now), when they managed to get the membrane prototype, was

 

Quote

The most important feedback here is that the key format feels incredible good -- in fact, even the keyboard manufacturer, a specialist in keyboards with years of experience and dozens of models under their belt -- praised how good the Next keys feel to the touch, and how accurate the keyboard becomes with the key shape compared to a typical, modern keyboard. 

Let this sink in for a second… Keyboard experts in 2018 are saying that the original key shape developed by Rick back in 1984, when paired with modern mechanics and engineering, is better to the touch than the key shapes we use in most keyboards today. Yep.

 

That's all great, a world class keyboard design that nobody (even Apple) have achieved. But 7 months later we're now being told in the latest update

 

Quote

The test membranes we had until recently had a high error ratio: if the is key pressed slightly at an angle, one of the two contacts would register before the other. When this first contact happens to be Caps Shift, all is fine; but when it’s not, we get a single key press instead, thus the composite key results fail (we get 0 rather than Delete, for instance).

The keyboard manufacturer was certain this effect would disappear once we built the keyboards in the automated assembly line rather than by hand, where the alignment of the silicone dome under each key would be perfect and ensure it hits both contacts at the same time. But unfortunately, once the first units were made last month and tested, the results were not much better than the hand-made prototypes.

The manufacturer then designed a new membrane with the two half contacts closer together, at the limit of their manufacturing resolution, as they deemed this the final solution. Again, the result wasn’t good enough, we still get a lot of errors on real testing.

 

That's two attempts to make the membrane work and it's failed. What's the solution? Make three more membrane designs and hopefully one will work. Oh, but they're now letting the keyboard manufacturer do all the testing in order to save time. Hmmm... maybe not a good idea there? What happens if they get 5,000 of them made, assemble them and it turns out the Keyboard manufacturer didn't pick up on the failure rate? 

 

So instead of testing that the keyboard actually worked, they seemed to be patting themselves on the back - way back in October - for making a keyboard that was better than any other design in 2018. To me, that's the gist of the problem. They've gone down a rabbit hole of making a keyboard that's world class, that nobody else has achieved, instead of just making a keyboard that works on - let's face it - something that people are going to play 35 year old games on.

 

Or to be blunt. About 1% of Next users are going to give a shit how the keyboard feels when playing Manic Miner. 

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28 minutes ago, gone fishin' said:

 

I don't think that's quite right, the keyboard was designed by Rick Dickinson

 

Yip, you're right that the physical design was by Rick, but the I was meaning the keyboard functionality design.

 

30 minutes ago, PeteBrant said:

Yes, but I would be somewhat concerned given the keyboad company used designs for the contact pads that anyone who has ever actually design a membrane keyboard would know don't work.

 

Sadly, yes. The keyboard company is an experienced keyboard manufacturer. They were sure that it'd all work perfectly when it was all put together and it turns out they were quite wrong.

Ah well.

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