I’ve been out of the loop somewhat but recently I heard of a new retro-computing project called the ZX Spectrum Next. It’s an update of the original Sinclair Spectrum Plus but with lots of added bells and whistles. I grew up in the 8-bit microcomputer era and learned lots on an original Spectrum Plus. The chance to get my hands on an updated machine is exciting.
There is a fledgling website for the machine at http://www.specnext.com/ but for the convenience, here is a current list of specs as of 9th May 2016:
- Processor: Z80 3.5Mhz and 7Mhz modes
- Memory: 512Kb RAM
- Video: ULAplus featuring expanded video modes and colours
- Video Output: RGB, VGA, mini HDMI
- Storage: SD Card slot, with DivMMC-compatible protocol
- Audio: AY-3-8912 or FM2149 audio chips (selectable) with stereo output
- Joystick: DB9 compatible with Cursor and Interface 2 protocols (selectable)
- PS/2 port: Mouse with Kempston mode emulation or an external keyboard
- Extras: Multiface functionality for memory access, savegames, cheats etc.
- Tape support: Mic and Ear ports for tape loading and saving
- Expansion: Original external bus expansion port and accelerator expansion port
- Accelerator board: GPU / 1Ghz CPU / 512Mb RAM
A Facebook group dedicated to the machine can be found at: Spectrum Next Facebook Group and there has been lots of support there for the makers and plenty of suggestions and comments on the design.
The makers intend to crowd-fund the machine and supporters are eagerly awaiting the announcement on when this will take place.
What’s this got to do with AVRs you ask? Well, one of the things I always wanted on my original Spectrum Plus was a general purpose I/O port. Commercial boards were just to expensive for me at the time and I didn’t have the knowledge to design and build one for myself. So my wish is to design a good AVR based general I/O port for the Spectrum Next. The Spectrum Next will be fully compatible with the original Spectrum’s rear expansion connector and should be fairly easy to interface a design. I’d like to have 8 buffered digital inputs and 8 buffered digital outputs.
There is discussion that the Spectrum Next will feature a port to add an ESP-8266 WiFi module which opens up lots of possibilities for networking.
If you are interested in the Spectrum Next, I highly recommend you check out and bookmark the official website and join in the discussion on the Facebook Page. And watch for updates on my interface design here once I have a Spectrum Next to play with.
Many thanks to Henrique Olifers for the use of all images.