Yet another attempt to recreate the success of Sir Clive Sinclair's ZX Spectrum microcomputer has hit the crowdfunding circuit, but this one's a little special: an entirely new machine in a full-size case designed by Rick Dickinson.
To say that previous attempts to relaunch the 8-bit Sinclair ZX Spectrum have been underwhelming is not an understatement. The first to hit the big time was the ZX Spectrum Vega
, a compact device which lacked the keys for full compatibility with all Spectrum software and hit the market at a whopping £100 - almost as much as the ZX Spectrum cost at launch, without correcting for inflation. Its follow-up, the ZX Spectrum Vega Plus
, has fared even worse: a PlayStation Portable inspired design again lacks a full keyboard, while the company behind it is reportedly suffering financial and legal troubles while backers clamour for refunds of the long-delayed device.
The ZX Spectrum Next, though, is different. Based around a Xilinx Spartan field-programmable gate array (FPGA), the machine features an implementation of the Z80 processor architecture that ran the original machine - but switchable between 3.5MHz and accelerated 7MHz modes. This use of, effectively, hardware rather than software emulation promises full compatibility and none of the glitches associated with its competitors, while the rest of the system has been brought bang up to date too: the 16KB or 48KB of the original ZX Spectrum machines has been upgraded to 512KB expandable to 1.5MB internally and 2.5MB externally, there are RGB, VGA, and HDMI video outputs, an on-board SD Card slot while still supporting external tape decks, three AY-3-8192 audio chips, DB9 joystick and PS/2 mouse support, an on-board Multiface interface, and even the option to insert a Raspberry Pi to use as a fully-addressible co-processor.
All this hardware comes housed in a full-size case based on the post-Amstrad-acquisition Spectrum models, complete with full-size keyboard, which has been designed by Rick Dickinson - the brain behind several Spectrum models as well as the ill-fated Sinclair QL.
The project's creator, Henrique Olifiers, has pledged to release all hardware, firmware, and software created for the ZX Spectrum Next under a permissive open-source licence, and his call for funding has been a resounding success: since launching late last week, the campaign has shot past its £250,000 goal with £255,205 raised at the time of writing. While the reduced-cost 'early bird' pledges are gone, the project can still be backed with rewards starting at £99 for an uncased motherboard, £175 for a fully-cased version, or £215 for a Plus edition with on-board real-time clock (RTC) and Wi-Fi network module. Shipping for all models is scheduled for January 2018, though as with any crowdfunding campaign this is not guaranteed.
Full details are available on the project's Kickstarter campaign page