A brand-new Sinclair Spectrum home computer for the 21st century has been launched, in the early hours of this morning – just in time to celebrate the 35th birthday of the legendary original Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k which was launched on 23rd April 1982 – 35 years ago today.
Dubbed the ‘Sinclair ZX Spectrum Next’ by new UK manufacturers SpecNext Ltd, the new kid on the Sinclair block looks both backward to a glorious gaming past and forward to what is hoped to be a bright new future, by combining a slick modern take on the classic Spectrum+ exterior design, which is once again created by original Spectrum designer Rick Dickinson, this time around 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. One thing is for sure, there is certainly a demand for the Next, as evidenced by the raising of more than £157,000 for the project on Kickstarter in just 11 hours so far. As of the time of posting, there are 709 backers, and 29 days to go to raise the £250,000 goal.
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. The company has its registered office at 135 Bermondsey Street, London, and was incorporated on 9 February 2016 by game designer Carlos Henrique Olifiers, Co-Founder of BAFTA-winning games developers Bossa Studios, who is the project’s front man and chief evangelist here in the UK.
Licensed to thrill
Officially licensed through intellectual property holders Sky In-Home Service Limited (who purchased the intellectual property, trademarks etc from Amstrad, who had taken them over from Sir Clive Sinclair in 1985), the ZX Spectrum Next is an upgraded homage to the classic 1980s micro rather than a traditional chip-by-chip clone.
The new computer 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 Next used SD cards as its storage system, incorporating a ‘disk’ operating system known as ESXDOS, and amazingly you can still plug in a cassette recorder as well! 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 the spec 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)
If you want to discover more about the new ZX Spectrum Next, the company website offers basic information about the project and 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.
Pictures courtesy SpecNext Ltd except where indicated otherwise