Sinclair Spectrum – the Next generation!

Spectrum Next concept rendering by Rick Dickinson
Spectrum Next concept rendering

Things seem to have gone a little crazy on the retro computing front lately, what with new retro consoles and computers coming out of the woodwork all over the place – and the latest and possibly most amazing of all is a brand-new Sinclair ZX Spectrum, from yet another new manufacturer!

This latest 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 9 February 2016 by 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 Brazilian 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.

A Speccy for all seasons?

Apparently 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 only in 3D renderings, seems to have been 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 at the last count had decided against reviving an actual Spectrum computer.

The TBBlue by Mr Victor Trucco
The TBBlue by Mr Victor Trucco
The ZX Spectrum Next is based on Victor Trucco’s previous project, the TBBlue, and the Altera Cyclone 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. There is also a possibility of implementing ZX81 hi res mode before the first units ship.

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!

Sexy specs for the Speccy Next?
Spectrum Next concept rear rendering
Spectrum Next concept rear rendering

The following equivalent specifications for the new computer have been revealed so far:

  • Processor Z80 3.5Mhz and 7Mhz modes
  • Memory  512Kb RAM
  • Video  ULAplus featuring compatible and expanded modes and colours
  • Video output  RGB, VGA, mini HDMI
  • Storage  SD card slot, with DivMMC-compatible protocol
  • Tape support  Mic and Ear ports for cassette tape loading and saving
  • Audio  AY-3-8912 or FM2149 audio chips (selectable) with stereo output
  • Joystick port  DB9 compatible with Interface 1 or Interface 2 protocols (selectable)
  • PS/2 port  Mouse with Kempston mode emulation OR external keyboard
  • Extras  Multiface functionality for memory access, save games, cheats etc
  • Expansion  Original Spectrum external bus expansion port
  • Accelerator slave board  GPU/1Ghz CPU/512Mb RAM
Spectrum Next concept side rendering
Spectrum Next concept side rendering
Any colour you like as long as it’s black (or white)
Spectrum Next concept rendered in white
Spectrum Next concept rendered in white

The very attractive modernised design of the Spectrum Next may also be offered in traditional Spectrum black – or white! Not really surprising this as there’s been much interest from retro hobbyists in DIY modded white versions of the classic Speccy. So it looks like buyers will probably have the option to buy a black or white cased Spectrum Next, or indeed both. Pretty smart-looking either way, judging by the

Not really surprising this, as there’s been much interest from retro hobbyists in DIY modded white versions of the classic Speccy.  So it looks like buyers will probably have the option to buy a black or white cased Spectrum Next, or indeed both. Pretty smart-looking either way, judging by the renderings published so far.

HDMI through Pi

It’s been suggested that the HDMI out video option will be given by passing the output through a Raspberry Pi computer, possibly a Pi Zero, built-in to the Spectrum Next casing, though this is unconfirmed as yet.  Update 2 May 2016: we now understand the HDMI output is definitely planned to be via a Pi Zero.

Crowdfunding

Apparently the ZX Spectrum Next project is to be crowd funded, a popular method amongst new retro console and computer manufacturers. This has not yet been set up and we will follow this up in due course.

Company website

A preliminary website has been set up, but as yet shows very little. It does, however, offer the opportunity to sign up for a newsletter and further information:

http://www.specnext.com/

Facebook

There is also already a ZX Spectrum Next group on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/237301699960491/

Conclusion

The Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next looks like a very exciting product, with a lot of potential, and we will be following the project closely. Watch this space!

Update 2 May 2016

Mr Trucco has now placed a video demonstration of the Next’s protoype electronics online – see our latest post about this exciting new machine: Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next board demonstrated 

Rendered images shown here are reproduced courtesy of SpecNext Ltd and Mr Victor Trucco, with thanks.
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