The ZX Spectrum Next: The Evolution of the ZX Spectrum Computer

The ZX Spectrum changed the facia and was a new, refreshing makeover of the rare and expensive home computers in Britain, in the early 80s. It brought a splash of colour to a monochrome landscape, a bunch of easy-load games, and also the option and opportunity to create your own games without needing to be an expert or a professional game developer. In 2017, London start-up SpecNext launched an enhanced version of the beloved Speccy on Kickstarter and now the curtains are raised on version 2.

The new model not only got a proper chiclet-style input device but also could be hooked up to colour television, the original Speccy was a huge improvement over its immediate predecessor, the ZX81. Though the Speccy was discontinued in the early 90s, the loyal and devoted users hacked and kept on enhancing their 8-bit wonders, for many years even after the official obituary was written in black and white. New games, although evolved, and developed, they did not always work on homegrown models, and so SpecNext created the Next, which could run original games and newer software too.

The original Kickstarter attracted over 3,000 backers, but the last of the original batch only shipped to patient pledgers in June of this year. Now there’s a new, improved version up for grabs – with its Kickstarter campaign funded in just 5 minutes, with 28 days left on the clock.

The new ZX Spectrum Next’s Z80n processor runs at 3.5 MHz and 7 MHz but can be boosted to 14 MHz and 28 MHz. An Accelerated version has Raspberry Pi Zero that serves as a co-processor, and there’s a Plus version that allows you to use your own Zero via the accelerator port. Instead of 512 KB of RAM you get a whole megabyte and can be expanded to 2 MB internally. There’s a choice of 256 x 192 or 640 x 256 video resolutions at 50 or 60 Hz, with VGA and HDMI outputs to the rear of the chunky keyboard chassis. And two joystick ports are compatible with Cursor, Kempston and Interface 2. A PS/2 mouse port is included too.

Storage is via SD card, which comes loaded with the NextZXOS operating system, games, demos, and apps. Users, if they wish to code their own games, can boot straight into NextBasic. The mic/headphone combo jack caters for cassette tape loading and saving of games. The system features nine-channel audio from three AY-3-8912 chips and two 8-bit digital-to-analog converters. And there’s a Wi-Fi module too, though still no USB.

Clearly the Next won’t run demanding modern games, but if you’re into retro gaming on an authentic-looking machine, then this could be worth checking out. Kickstarter pledges start at £300 (about US$385) for the Next Plus or £325 from the Accelerated model. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start about a year from now. The video below has more.

Product page: SpaceNext

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