'Spectrum Next' – Another modern version of a retro computer

Spectrum Next Digital Design

Times are magnificent for retro computing nostalgia! After the ZX Spectrum VEGA, VEGA+ and THE64, now we were presented with the ‘Spectrum Next’.

Spectrum Next was unveiled last Saturday at the Play Expo Blackpool in UK with a huge reception.

The gorgeous new machine is still being presented as a rendered 3D model for now, and it is preparing to debut a crowdfunding campaign soon. The promise is that it will be a modern replacement “at the hardware level”, making it clear that it is not an emulated based system in a Speccy-like shell.

The Spectrum Next is also designed by  ZX Spectrum product designer Rick Dickinson, apparently inspired by the Spectrum+ and it looks awesome!

Differently than the Vega, the Next will be a fully-functional computer. The hardware is based on the TBBlue, an Altera Cyclone FPGA-based board designed by Victor Trucco. The promise is that the original hardware will be fully implemented, granting the new computer total compatibility with any software made for the Speccy. See below a quick video about the TBBlue.

[youtube -t6qABc5Hpg nolink]

The SD card will have an operating system called ESXDOS, and the new machine will be compatible with all the original Sinclair ZX Spectrum versions.

Retro Computing News compiled and listed the specifications of the new device, at least what is revealed so far:

  • Processor Z80 3.5Mhz and 7Mhz modes (implemented in the FPGA)
  • 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

GamesYouLoved YouTube channel has published the presentation with the announcement and an exclusive interview with Henrique Olifiers where they talk about the public reaction to the announcement and more. You can watch the interview here. The full presentation is linked at the end of the article.

For now, you can subscribe to a mail list directly on the specnext.com and as soon as the crowdfunding campaign starts you will be notified.

This project has caught my attention, mainly because ZX Spectrum is not common here in North America and I have fond memories of my first BASIC course using a ZX-81 clone (Brazilian TK-82C) and playing later with the TK-90X.

The Spectrum Next is a modern machine using current hardware which will be the main complaint the “purists” will make, but if the project keeps all the promises, it will be a genuinely retro experience. I am afraid it won’t be cheap, and you will be probably able to buy old Speccys for less, but the modern storage and video connections have a strong appeal for sure.

spectrum next
Back panel showing HDMI port

Another positive point of the recent news is that, in my opinion, the project is being handled very well, with plenty of information, a “teaser” website and a Facebook group where you can ask questions that will be answered. However, if the team behind the project want to have a successful campaign, they must show their capability to build such a challenging project and mass produce it. It is not a hobbyist project, for sure. Another good sign is that, to manage the project, a company was formed and registered in UK, SpecNext Ltd.

Of course, any of this means that we gonna have the Next on our desks, but it is a good indication that SpecNext is serious to make that happen!

After seeing all the information about the Next, my scientific conclusion is very simple: I WANT IT!

Link: NextSpectrum
Link: YouTube Full Presentation
Link: Facebook Group

Author: Paulo Garcia

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