The ZX Spectrum Next Arrives

Hackaday on the ZX Spectrum Next. Embeds a video on it.

The new incarnation of the Spectrum claims to be fully compatible with the original but also offers improved graphics modes, SD cards instead of tape, and an optional 7 MHz clock speed. The 512K of RAM would have been sinfully luxurious back in the day when the original model came with 16K, although the most iconic Spectrums would be the 48K models. The new version even has the option of taking a Raspberry Pi Zero to act as an accelerator.

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Mine turned up recently too, and I spent this last Tuesday reading the manual and playing with it. Any questions, ask away. (I don’t have a Pi fitted, or a WiFi dongle. I was able to add BBC Basic to the CP/M disk image and fire that up. Which is about the least Speccy thing one could do!)

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This machine is growing on me! It does a fine job of being a Spectrum - indeed one of maybe a dozen flavours of Spectrum, and with various extras which would have been aftermarket addons at the time.

But more than that, the built in facilities allow us to run alternative cores - the machine can become any machine that can be described in HDL and synthesised to an LX19 FPGA. That includes Acorn Atom, Amstrad CPC, MSX and so on. And a QL is rumoured. And there’s more in the pipeline, as well as a number of arcade machines.

What I really like is that the Next is compact and portable and self-contained and good to look at, with all the flexibility of an FPGA system, and with firmware and a user interface which keeps all the customisation and configuration on an SD card. There’s no need for any special connectors or dongles. In the event that you load a bad core or mess up the filesystem, you can always recover using a fresh SD card. The card is also a storage device for the system you’re running, whether directly accessible or to provide disk images with other (native) filesystems.

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Interesting progress… @hoglet is nearing a beta release of a BBC Micro/Master dual purpose alternative core for the Next. Here’s a photo from @Revaldinho’s test of an earlier iteration:
image
(The very nice owl from the BBC Computer Literacy Program is by dv8 of stardot.)

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How are you finding the keyboard on it? Is it as practical to use as modern PC keyboards for someone who types at 100 WPM or so, assuming it’s running software appropriate to that? (I.e., not the standard Spectrum BASIC.)

The keyboard action is fine, but the layout takes quite a bit of getting used to.

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