ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

For experts to discuss very technical stuff and newbies to ask why the Spectrum they bought off ebay doesn't work.
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by Alcoholics Anonymous » Sat Dec 01, 2018 7:15 am

Ralf wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 5:44 pm
My opinion is that people behind crowdunding projects are often enthusiasts good at their passion (programming, soldering, designing) but just as often are lame at "making business". It they were good with business, they would be able to secure money for their project in traditional way (like taking a credit at bank) and not beg for money through crowdfunding. And somehow I feel that with a bank credit which you have to pay or you're kicked out of your flat people become more efficient and less careless ;)
3000 machines is not a business; it's a hobby. If you're making 100,000 - 1 million you can start thinking it's a business. Without a crowdfunding something like the zx next would not be possible unless driven by a benevolent millionaire.
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by PeterJ » Sat Dec 01, 2018 9:00 am

4thRock wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:22 pm
I think the problem with these projects is undefined scope and lack of realism.
It would be much easier to create a 200% accurate emulator and bundle it with a spectrum styled computer keyboard and joypad.
And perhaps much cheaper and with less risk for all.
I agree. ARM based boards like the Raspberry Pi Zero which retail for $5 could be put into something equivalent to the recreated Spectrum. You could the run Fuse or ZesarUX. You could also build a portable version like the Nintendo DSi

I'm not underestimating the amount of planning and other work needed, but at least you wouldn't.need to create the electronics from scratch As long as backers knew from the start that it was based on a Pi they could make an informed decision.
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by 1024MAK » Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:17 pm

Part of the reason I backed the ZX Spectrum Next, is the new case and keyboard. Having obtained various third party keyboards over the years for use with ZX81s and ZX Spectrums, and having various other microcomputers from the 1980s and 1990s, I just cannot scratch the itch of wanting to have a good looking ZX Spectrum with a good keyboard. Ironically, by the time Amstrad introduced the +2, I was looking at buying an Atari STFM (and then did go down that route).

I’m sorry, but I have never been a fan of Sinclair’s existing ZX Spectrum+ / ZX Spectrum 128k / QL keyboard’s (although the QL keyboard is very slightly better than the one on the Spectrum). At least with the rubber key, you knew that the keyboard would be, err, rubbery!

Mind, it’s still a gamble (for me) if the keyboard on the ZX Spectrum Next will meet with my expectations....

Mark
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by Pegaz » Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:58 pm

PeterJ wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 9:00 am
4thRock wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 6:22 pm
I think the problem with these projects is undefined scope and lack of realism.
It would be much easier to create a 200% accurate emulator and bundle it with a spectrum styled computer keyboard and joypad.
And perhaps much cheaper and with less risk for all.
I agree. ARM based boards like the Raspberry Pi Zero which retail for $5 could be put into something equivalent to the recreated Spectrum. You could the run Fuse or ZesarUX. You could also build a portable version like the Nintendo DSi

I'm not underestimating the amount of planning and other work needed, but at least you wouldn't.need to create the electronics from scratch As long as backers knew from the start that it was based on a Pi they could make an informed decision.
True.
Even better, with the new Pi3 A+, you can get full speed Next emulation for just $25.
1024MAK wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:17 pm
Part of the reason I backed the ZX Spectrum Next, is the new case and keyboard. Having obtained various third party keyboards over the years for use with ZX81s and ZX Spectrums, and having various other microcomputers from the 1980s and 1990s, I just cannot scratch the itch of wanting to have a good looking ZX Spectrum with a good keyboard. Ironically, by the time Amstrad introduced the +2, I was looking at buying an Atari STFM (and then did go down that route).

I’m sorry, but I have never been a fan of Sinclair’s existing ZX Spectrum+ / ZX Spectrum 128k / QL keyboard’s (although the QL keyboard is very slightly better than the one on the Spectrum). At least with the rubber key, you knew that the keyboard would be, err, rubbery!

Mind, it’s still a gamble (for me) if the keyboard on the ZX Spectrum Next will meet with my expectations....

Mark
You right, of course.
Still, some forum experts believe that "Next" is just a board.
It's a shame they havent informed Henrique and team, that they have no need to bother with the fancy case and keyboard...
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by Bizzley » Sat Dec 01, 2018 1:06 pm

1024MAK wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:17 pm
Mind, it’s still a gamble (for me) if the keyboard on the ZX Spectrum Next will meet with my expectations....
Like you I made use of a fair amount of third-party Spectrum keyboards, some good, some bad, and companies like DK'Tronics didn't seem to have a problem designing and knocking them out to us on a fairly regular basis. While I have to say that they wouldn't have won any awards for innovative industrial design they usually did work and were pretty reliable on the whole. I would break more joysticks than keyboards and if I did have to get a new one it was probably because of the print on the keys rubbing off rather than mechanical failure.

I'll believe in the keyboard after I've seen someone playing one of the sports button-basher games like Daley Thompson's Decathlon for an hour on it. :)
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by Hernan » Sat Dec 01, 2018 2:31 pm

Alcoholics Anonymous wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 7:11 am
It would be possible to run a reduced version of the next on the uno, for example, and such a thing might appear within a few days of the source being made public
This already exists, but with an older version when both systems shared the same FPGA and it was called TBBlue.

http://www.zxuno.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=491
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by Alcoholics Anonymous » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:44 pm

Hernan wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 2:31 pm
This already exists, but with an older version when both systems shared the same FPGA and it was called TBBlue.
http://www.zxuno.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=47&t=491
That was a very early version which wasn't much more than a standard zx spectrum implementation :) The next cores the early devs were using on their unos were real zx next cores with features removed to fit.

TBBLUE is printed on the zx next PCBs.. It's kind of hard to define what TBBLUE means but it seems to me that it is a vhdl shell with a library of modules which can be used to synthesize a variety of machines. The zx next repository only contains modules for z80 machines and the zx next features. Victor has another core "the multicore" that contains implementations for a lot of other machines but is still TBBLUE.
I agree. ARM based boards like the Raspberry Pi Zero which retail for $5 could be put into something equivalent to the recreated Spectrum. You could the run Fuse or ZesarUX. You could also build a portable version like the Nintendo DSi
At the moment there are two zx next emulators but neither one is a complete emulation.

Zesarux is closest to a full emulation (and aims to be eventually) and it can be compiled for raspberry pi but even on my 2.2GHz i7 laptop it only achieves ~10% emulation speed under windows. Part of it could be that zesarux is primarily aimed at linux machines so there are inefficiencies in the windows build but this should be a strong indicator that there's no chance full emulation speed will be possible on the pis using zesarux as things are now. If there's somebody here actually running zesarux on the pis, maybe they could comment.

Cspect is the other one and has recently been ported to C# so can also target linux now; formerly it was windows only. It is not a full emulation and never will be - it's really emulating a 128k spectrum with most of the display hardware on the next and is not timing accurate. It's good for game dev (it's intended purpose) but it cannot run the operating system nor field much more than basic disk io among the io available on the next. The author did try compiling it and running on a pi zero but it stuttered and did not run full speed. Maybe on faster pis it could run full speed.

Eventually I am sure there could be reasonable emulation on the newest pis. It's also worth mentioning the price for fpga boards are rapidly coming down to the same levels. The main price contributor to the next is not the board but other things like the case.
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by PQR » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:53 pm

I am a Next backer, no. 2,087, and I am not worried.
Contrary to some other people here, to me the Next’s appeal is all about the case.

The fact that the Next case has been designed by the same man who designed the original Sinclair hardware originally caught my attention. Now that this project has (sadly) become Rick Dickinson’s swan song makes it even more special to me.

Having something produced in a small run of only a couple of thousand units is not normal in the world of manufacturing.
Delays and setbacks were to be expected, and I think the team handles them well.
There is also help from Rick Dickinson’s team where it concerns overseeing manufacturing and QA. These are not amateurs.

Yes, it is a pity that the project is delayed.
But I have a strong impression that the team is able to deliver the case, similar to how they have already delivered the board.
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by Alcoholics Anonymous » Sat Dec 01, 2018 4:22 pm

PeterJ wrote:
Sat Dec 01, 2018 9:00 am
I'm not underestimating the amount of planning and other work needed, but at least you wouldn't.need to create the electronics from scratch As long as backers knew from the start that it was based on a Pi they could make an informed decision.
The risk in the project is in the physical case.

The kickstarter unlocked goals did require a new pcb but that was a minor risk. The fpga hw was already done. Even though the core hw continues to evolve it was never a risk because of the nature of fpgas. The end user can easily update the core hw himself which means there is no point where the core is frozen and can never be changed.
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Re: ZX Spectrum Next Discussion

Post by toot_toot » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:33 pm

Just re/reading the end of the last update, I think some of this text highlights some of the concerns some backers have
We’ve been accelerating the keyboard production as of late, now that most adjustments to the keys have been done. Myself, Mike and Phil are in daily contact with the keyboard partner, pushing the production along as fast as we can. Now it’s getting the keys printed, the T2 keyboard assembled and fitted in the case, and full production.

Most people working on the project today are original backers who volunteered their time to help out. We’re as frustrated as any backer with the delay, and as eager to get our Nexts as everyone else. I, for one, can’t wait to have my Next sitting on my desk playing Baggers in Space… We will continue to push and get it out as soon as we can, rest assured.
After a lengthy update with all of the “to-do” project items, the update finishes with a vague “we will get it out as soon as we can”. Not any indication of timescales or what the next milestones in that list are, just “it will be ready when it’s ready”. Except er’ve Been given several updates telling us we’re in the final push. But here we are in November with no idea when it’s going to be ready - but the concerning thing is that the project organisers don’t even seem to know when it is going to be ready.

The other worry is just how much money they’re now spending on the keyboard. Every time they’re making a tweak, that costs money. The last thing we want to hear is that they’ve run out of money trying to make something that’s already freely available from the likes of ZX Renew.

Not hitting timescales is a concern, but then even simple promises like a new update every two weeks, because the project is now well past the January deadline, are being regularly broken. The last update was due last sunday. But nothing. Not even something like “there’s nothing to update” or “we’re really busy but we’ll give another update in a few days time”. Now that it’s even easier than ever to give short updates via Facebook or Twitter, It’s very frustrating, even more so when the team seem to find time going to various retro gaming events taking a ZX Renew cased Next and showing off a handheld Next prototype. Hey, where’s our updates on the cased Next that raised over £600k in funds??!?!?

While the updates are certainly better than the likes of the Vega+, the team are really missing how to keep the backers on their side with regular (as promised) updates with at least some sort of timescale indications. The longer this goes on, the more annoyed, frustrated and angry the backers are going to get.
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