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The ZX Spectrum Next - Kickstarter Now Live! : Now Funded!


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I finally got to have a play with the current prototype Next at Revival this weekend.

 

9e1Qbo4.jpg

 

Got to say that it’s hard not to be impressed with the way that it looks. Jim showed me what the problem was with certain key strokes.

 

What really impressed me though was what can now be achieved in basic. They had a very slick Bomber Man clone running which looked like an early’ish 16bit game, which had totally been written in basic.

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16 minutes ago, Swainy said:

What really impressed me though was what can now be achieved in basic. They had a very slick Bomber Man clone running which looked like an early’ish 16bit game, which had totally been written in basic.

 

If the machine can process basic fast enough, is there any reason why it cannot be as fast as machine coded games from back in the day?

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1 minute ago, ulala said:

 

If the machine can process basic fast enough, is there any reason why it cannot be as fast as machine coded games from back in the day?

Well that’s the thing, if I hadn’t of been told & shown that this game was running in basic then I would have thought that it was machine code.

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1 minute ago, Swainy said:

Well that’s the thing, if I hadn’t of been told & shown that this game was running in basic then I would have thought that it was machine code.

 

i might be able to code my own game then! 

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8 hours ago, Swainy said:

I finally got to have a play with the current prototype Next at Revival this weekend.

 

9e1Qbo4.jpg

 

Got to say that it’s hard not to be impressed with the way that it looks. Jim showed me what the problem was with certain key strokes.

 

What really impressed me though was what can now be achieved in basic. They had a very slick Bomber Man clone running which looked like an early’ish 16bit game, which had totally been written in basic.


 

Just as a recap, the last update was waiting for three different keyboard membranes to be tested, with the hope that one would work correctly (let's remember, this is over a year they've been working on the keyboard). They were hoping for an update within a week and the membrane would go into production.

 

Except there hasn't been an official update in over a month with an unofficial update through twitter that the manufacturer was testing different membrane designs, because I presume the previous ones didn't work.

 

Now, there's been no official change on the release date - which is still official "End of Q2". That would be 13 days from now.

 

So while it's nice to see them carting the only working Next to various shows, it's incredibly frustrating that there's zero official updates from them. 

 

 

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On 17/06/2019 at 23:18, gone fishin' said:


 

Just as a recap, the last update was waiting for three different keyboard membranes to be tested, with the hope that one would work correctly (let's remember, this is over a year they've been working on the keyboard). They were hoping for an update within a week and the membrane would go into production.

 

Except there hasn't been an official update in over a month with an unofficial update through twitter that the manufacturer was testing different membrane designs, because I presume the previous ones didn't work.

 

Now, there's been no official change on the release date - which is still official "End of Q2". That would be 13 days from now.

 

So while it's nice to see them carting the only working Next to various shows, it's incredibly frustrating that there's zero official updates from them. 

 

 

 

I’m told that there will be an update this weekend.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I know I sound like a right moaning bastard (and I do think the Next will eventually be in my hands) but I honestly think the guys running this don't have a clue about project management.

 

The last Kickstarter updated, on the 17 July, started off with

 

Quote

Happy news: the new keyboard, already tested at the manufacturing partner, is on its way to the Next team in the UK for a final ‘I’ve tested it myself’ confirmation before the greenlight for mass production, which should happen as soon as next week. 

 

and then had

 

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With this last step out of the way, we’re now ramping up for the full production of the keyboard and case, then shipping all of it to Nottingham for final assembly and posting to the backers. 

 

Here's me thinking to myself "fucking finally, they've managed to get this bloody stupid keyboard design sorted and it looks like it's going to be in the backers hands within weeks now".

 

The last update signed off with

 

Quote

Stay tuned for the next update shortly, with more good news on the way!!!

 

That was over a month ago. Now there's an "unofficial" update (like they can't even be bothered sending out an update via the official Kickstarter email list) and I'm still thinking "well they said they were ready to hit the GO for mass production in the last update" and then reading the unofficial update there's this:

 

Quote

The resultant prototypes that emerged and were tested demonstrated a viable way forwards for the keyboard. Everything was now in place ready for actual keyboard production. In the case of these keyboard prototypes, they were hand made and assembled. Once approval was sent to our keyboard partner, pilot production was triggered.

 

Right.... so they're not actually doing mass production after the test, they're now doing a "pilot production"???

 

Quote

Pilot production represents the creation of the necessary tooling for mass production and the subsequent production of a “test run”. A limited number of keyboards to prove that the tooling and the various build stages produce a product which matches that which was signed off.

 

So pilot production is a limited production run where they need to test everything works so they can do mass production??? Wait, I thought in the last update they said they were doing the mass production during the last week of July?

 

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For proving correct functionality they will test the end results using two methods. One is a machine that tests all lines in the membrane itself and the other is the use of an actual Next running keyboard testing software. This effectively instructs an operator to press a certain key X number of times and reports the success and failure rate. This is done for every key on every keyboard in the pilot production run.

Once these pilot units have completed their testing in China, they will be shipped over to the UK whereby everything being satisfactory, approval will be given to press the big GO button.

The hope is that these units will emerge around the last week of August.

 

Wait, the pilot production consists of somebody in China manually testing the keyboards and then shipping them over to the UK for final approval??? And those are expected "around" the last week of August? Hold on a second, weren't we told that the mass production was happening in the last week of July?? WTF??

 

But still, once this is done then they'll be ready to hit the big GO button, right??

 

Quote

No pilot production could take place to test the “mass” production capabilities of the moulds and injection processes until the keyboard was finalised. No pilot production could take place until our case partner and Industrial Designer had a finished keyboard as a final solid reference. Both parts coming together finally.

Now of course this has happened and our case partner has kicked off an activity to produce a pilot batch of cases, in much the same way as for the keyboard. Again these cases will be validated as they have been throughout the process, since we started at the T0 sample in the middle of 2018. Seriously that ago…

 

Right.. so there's been no mass production of the cases and instead they're now producing a pilot batch of cases in the same way as the keyboard, which then need to be validated?

 

Jesus, so we've gone from "green light for mass production" in July to them still validating if the product can be mass produced, with the pilot production keyboard not arriving until the end of August? 

 

These are for two parts that should have been the easiest to manufacture (a plastic case and a computer keyboard - two things that are produced in huge quantities each day), the hardest part should have been the board, but those have been sitting in storage for over a year now waiting for a final case and keyboard (you can buy off the shelf Spectrum 48k case/keyboards to use with the basic Next board for nearly two years now from here: https://zxrenew.co.uk/ZX-SPECTRUM-REPLACEMENT-CASES-only-c22752627

 

But the most annoying thing is that none of that has been communicated via Kickstarter. We go from one update saying it's a week away from mass production, followed by weeks of silence and then via an unofficial update it's "oh, there's actually another part of the process that needs to be done. But we're still not going to give a concrete timescale. Even though it's now over 18 months behind schedule. Instead we'll just give a load of technical waffle that's irrelevant if you actually want to know when the Next will be in your hands."

 

I'll say one thing, they're at least keeping alive Sinclair's reputation of sticking to timescales and product delivery.

 

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Yeah, I always thought these guys were all over this and on the case (ha) but I've been thinking it all seems a bit shambolic for the last 6 months or so.

 

Definitely starting to have doubts now, the updates feel like hot air, just bollocks to fill it out.

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On 19/08/2019 at 18:13, hughsieman said:

Yeah, I always thought these guys were all over this and on the case (ha) but I've been thinking it all seems a bit shambolic for the last 6 months or so.

 

Definitely starting to have doubts now, the updates feel like hot air, just bollocks to fill it out.

 

There's starting to be parallels to the Vega debacle now, but people seem to have more good will towards this ?

I'd be wondering when the kickstarter money is going to run out and they can no longer fund development.

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On 19/08/2019 at 18:39, Gregory Wolfe said:

 

Yeah.

 

To be fair I think this is a bit of a shambles and you risk coming across as an apologist for their mistakes. E.g. it didn't come out last Christmas as you thought, and now it's the end of August. Maybe this lot are the ones to root for after the amusing internet drama of the Vega+ show but there are clearly (probs more honestly made) cockups here too. They're not scam artists but I think criticism is fine, gone fishing's points aren't negligible. 

 

I'm sure it'll be out soon and everything will be fine. You just seem uncharacteristically un-sceptical about all of this!

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29 minutes ago, Rob Rule said:

 

To be fair I think this is a bit of a shambles and you risk coming across as an apologist for their mistakes. E.g. it didn't come out last Christmas as you thought, and now it's the end of August. Maybe this lot are the ones to root for after the amusing internet drama of the Vega+ show but there are clearly (probs more honestly made) cockups here too. They're not scam artists but I think criticism is fine, gone fishing's points aren't negligible. 

 

I'm sure it'll be out soon and everything will be fine. You just seem uncharacteristically un-sceptical about all of this!

 

I think it's fairly simple.They've chosen a keyboard manufacturer in China and along with the genuine mistakes they've made over the keyboard membrane making various iterations of it takes a fuck ton of time. I save my whinging for the people who are making the thing on the Facebook page.

 

I'm just using my time on here to give updates when I get them. I don't think any comparisons with the Vega+ are fair at all, the only thing they have in common is the Spectrum.

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I initially pledged £1 as a show of support in a "well they seem a bit more professional about this than the Vega bunch" way, but the keyboard thing does seem pretty messy. I mean, they at least got boards out to backers (I think?) so that's something, but with the keyboard it's like they bit off more than they can chew...

 

Maybe they should have had the board be the Kickstarter, and then people who know what they're doing can work out suitable peripherals to stick it in... ;) 

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Becomes a lot more hobbyist then though, like the C64 Ultimate with people taking their own approaches to creating a full machine out of new/butchered cases etc. I backed the Next as I want a complete machine, ready to go, simply because I wouldn't really have the time to hack about with it in that way. It feels like they're so close, but this last stretch seems to be dragging on endlessly.

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It's as they still trying to make the boards case compatible with the original case and keyboards - and so they needed to make a completely new keyboard that worked in the 'old' way. They likely could have just channelled a more modern keyboard design through some other interface (i.e. USB) but then that would have upped the board complexity. Plus, arguably, part of the feel is in the use of a rubber membrane keyboard. You can sort of understand why they went this route. 

 

I'm used to virtually every Kickstarter I've ever backed taking way longer than planned, I have faith in these guys to deliver eventually. Mostly as unlike the VEGA mob, they have demonstrated working software and boards at public events and the folks involved have much more reputable backgrounds.

 

It's amusing that the complicated bit is done (in terms of the actual guts of the machine) and the delay is now with the case and keyboard which you'd think were the easier parts. At least it looks to be down to some degree of quality control though.

 

That's not to say backers shouldn't be allowed to vent, the communication has been a little sporadic and optimistic in terms of when it'd be done. 

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On 21/08/2019 at 18:00, S0L said:

It's as they still trying to make the boards case compatible with the original case and keyboards - and so they needed to make a completely new keyboard that worked in the 'old' way. They likely could have just channelled a more modern keyboard design through some other interface (i.e. USB) but then that would have upped the board complexity. Plus, arguably, part of the feel is in the use of a rubber membrane keyboard. You can sort of understand why they went this route. 

 

I'm used to virtually every Kickstarter I've ever backed taking way longer than planned, I have faith in these guys to deliver eventually. Mostly as unlike the VEGA mob, they have demonstrated working software and boards at public events and the folks involved have much more reputable backgrounds.

 

It's amusing that the complicated bit is done (in terms of the actual guts of the machine) and the delay is now with the case and keyboard which you'd think were the easier parts. At least it looks to be down to some degree of quality control though.

 

That's not to say backers shouldn't be allowed to vent, the communication has been a little sporadic and optimistic in terms of when it'd be done. 

 

As you've said, the design included the ability to use the original Spectrum or Spectrum + keyboard and case, essentially replacing the old board with the new board. But the problem has been that instead of just re-creating the original membrane design from the Spectrum + ( in order to have the extra keys that are the equivalent of pressing two keys together), they decided that they should have a modern, ultra light touch keyboard - similar to the ones you get in a new MacBook. 

 

That has meant they've had to essentially come up with a completely unique keyboard design, meaning they're doing the equivalent of Apple coming up with a new type of keyboard, instead of just using the existing membrane design (which you can easily buy) that, yes, might have meant the keyboard needed more pressure to type anything, but IMHO that's part of the enjoyment of using an old keyboard (and let's be honest, who the hell is going to spend time typing up stuff on a Spectrum Next when you'd likely be developing on a PC and then just using the Next to test). 

 

That seems to be the crux as to why it's now over 18 months behind schedule with the past 15 months being spent on the keyboard. Instead of just saying "we can't do the unique keyboard design with the ultra light touch, it's going to feel like the Spectrum + keyboard" they've spent the last 15 months fannying around trying to get this modern, ultra light touch keyboard that needs to be backwards compatible with 35+ year old hardware. Fingers crossed they're not polishing a turd.

 

It's now been over a month since the last official update and it's now really kicking off on the Facebook group and the Kickstarter comments page. I understand how much pressure the Next team must be under, what with them having other jobs to do, but even Next team that do frequent the Facebook team now seem to be coming across as arrogant. "We're not going to say what the release date is because it will be ready when it's ready" seems to be the response now. And when challenged on the fact they put the delivery date as January 2018, the response seems to be "well, we just did that because Kickstarter made us do it". This was a product that was promised, in a Kickstarter update in December 2018, as Q2 at the latest. 

 

Henrique who owns the project on Kickstarter apparently doesn't use Facebook (which is fine) but it's also clear that he can't be bothered giving any kind of updates, unless there's positive news or progress. That means we've gone from literally the last update saying

 

Quote

In the next couple of weeks we’ll get some pictures of the keyboard and cases plants churning out 3,000+ units and packaging them for travel, so expect a shorter timespan between this and the next update.

 

to absolutely nothing in over a month. 

 

Again, I'm sure it will eventually be delivered but it's really frustrating how the team seem to be handling this now. The snippets of information you get, outside of the official updates, seem to show a real lack of project management. Issues appear that should be completely understood as part of the milestones and yet only get brought up after the official communication has gone out. "It was always going to need a pilot production made, it's just that Henrique didn't communicate that well and we're only telling you this 4 weeks after the last update" or even one unofficial update the other day, buried in amongst the Facebook comments, that said "the latest delay is because we're waiting for the keyboard testing guy to come back from holiday". 

 

Like, how the fuck can you have a project getting delayed even further by someone being on holiday, on top of the need for pilot production testing, when the last official update was they were a couple of weeks away from the plants churning out 3000+ units? 

 

The thing is that this could easily be prevented, all they need to do is to communicate with the backers. If it's going to be delayed, I'm pretty certain the majority of backers are fine with it, just let them know when they should expect it and what the milestones are. I know I'd be fine if they said "it's going to be December 2019, here's what we need to do to complete it and we'll update you every month with progress (or lack of progress with the reasons why)."

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Membrane keyboards arent a new thing. They are used in thousands of products . The design is an established one. This isn't ground breaking technology. If I want to produce a product that uses a membrane keyboard, the work is in how the keyboard looks, not in how it functions (aside from cost decisions to decide what materials to use). 

You can understand a delay if they kep

ts fucking around withthe design of the keyboard, because you don't want to committ to tooling until you are certain.

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7 hours ago, PeteBrant said:

Membrane keyboards arent a new thing. They are used in thousands of products . The design is an established one. This isn't ground breaking technology. If I want to produce a product that uses a membrane keyboard, the work is in how the keyboard looks, not in how it functions (aside from cost decisions to decide what materials to use). 

You can understand a delay if they kep

ts fucking around withthe design of the keyboard, because you don't want to committ to tooling until you are certain.

 

I think you need to read up more about what they were trying to achieve and why there were extra levels of technical difficulty. I'm not about to try to paraphrase the issues because it's certainly well outside my level of knowledge. I'd be oversimplyfying the reasons for why it was complicated in the same way you're oversimplyfying why it should've been simple.

 

They appeared to have bitten off more than they can chew but there is now an alternative solution which should've solved the technical problems. The remaining delays are down to a last minute design change and the difficulties of properly testing it when your manufacturer is based in China and your small order isn't obviously any kind of priority for them.

 

I think we're nearly done now though. As ever the KS update is being held back until the project lead feels he has something positive to say. I think his last keyboards are go update will prevent him saying anything more until they are go.

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I'm certainly willing to accept they took on a difficult task.  But it does appear to have been one they shouldn't have and that they've managed appallingly.

 

Thankfully I didn't back. If these ever become a retail item I'm so in though.

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1 hour ago, Dudley said:

I'm certainly willing to accept they took on a difficult task.  But it does appear to have been one they shouldn't have and that they've managed appallingly.

 

Thankfully I didn't back. If these ever become a retail item I'm so in though.

 

The keyboard design was from Rick Dickinson and I really believe that the Next team are desperately trying to make it work because they're seeing it as his "legacy".

 

Going through the official email updates over the past 15 months is painful, update after update going on about how they're tweaking the key indentations (it uses the same indented key design as the Spectrum + and 128k toast rack), they're getting the colour right, the pressure on some of the keys is slightly out so it needs changes, the printing of the keys isn't quite there and needs a minor change. But that's all worth it because Rick wanted an ultra light, modern keyboard (and the keyboard manufacturer praised them that they've never experienced such a great keyboard design).

 

"Look at how beautiful it is and it feels amazing!"

 

And in the end, the bloody keyboard doesn't work. Like I said before, let's hope it's not a case of polishing a turd.

 

What's also annoying is that on the Facebook group the Next team that post on there seem to be focused on the second Kickstarter campaign, the one where they've learned from their mistakes and you'll be able to back a new campaign and get a second manufacturing run of the Next.

 

But that's not what crowd funding is supposed to be for. If they can manufacture the Next easily, it should be going through a retail channel, not a crowd funding campaign. This again makes me concerned about just how committed they are to the whole project. At least The C64 and The C64 Mini went through retail, meaning they have to get funding (likely a loan) in order to start manufacturing. It means they're taking on a risk themselves, which is going to reduce the risk of the product not being delivered. Not just take some crowd funding money with zero responsibility to actually deliver the product or zero comeback if they fail to deliver.

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12 minutes ago, gone fishin' said:

But that's not what crowd funding is supposed to be for. If they can manufacture the Next easily, it should be going through a retail channel, not a crowd funding campaign. This again makes me concerned about just how committed they are to the whole project. At least The C64 and The C64 Mini went through retail, meaning they have to get funding (likely a loan) in order to start manufacturing. It means they're taking on a risk themselves, which is going to reduce the risk of the product not being delivered. Not just take some crowd funding money with zero responsibility to actually deliver the product or zero comeback if they fail to deliver.

 

I'm not sure this is entirely fair. The Spectrum Next is an uber niche product, it's not like a mini console, which is basically an ARM chip and an emulator bundled together in the cheapest shell they can get away with and can be sold for a consumer friendly price. This is a passion project, built essentially, just for a small community of dedicated Spectrum fans, which must presumably top out at ten thousand people across the country. It's also a project which is essentially being lead by hobbyists with some professionals giving their spare time to the project. From what I know, the C64 Mini is backed by a business, dedicated to the commercial success of the machine.

If the C64 Mini retails for around the 100 mark, I'm guessing this would have to retail closer to 150. Is there really a market big enough for this, for which actual retailers would provide dedicated shelf space to? I'd imagine the lack of a consumer friendly OS, would alone disqualify it from most retail outlets. To my knowledge, they never even talked about a retail strategy for this, it was always just, "hey we've had this crazy idea for a new Speccy, would you like one?"

Making a batch and selling them is obvious business territory. Somebody has to take the financial risk that manufacturing them will result in enough sales to cover their investment, I'm not sure there's enough of a market for this in it's current form to justify such a gamble and I'm not sure the team want that responsibility.

 

I don't see the problem with organising a second Kickstarter for those who want one, when backers know the risks associated with crowd funding are significantly reduced, given that the product clearly exists and it's just a question of manufacture.

After that, who knows. I guess they'll have to decide if they want to drill down the costs, by redesigning it with an ARM/emulator solution (because I don't see their current mix of components being viable as a mass produced retail product) putting a consumer friendly OS in it and punting it at retail, as an all in one Spectrum retro machine, which is it's only real, viable path into retail.

Somebody has already produced a handheld version with the original board:

complete1.jpg

 

I believe Jim Bagley has actually said that they're talking making this their next project after the second Kickstarter... which would be amazing!

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9 minutes ago, Robo_1 said:

I believe Jim Bagley has actually said that they're talking making this their next project after the second Kickstarter... which would be amazing!

 

Who would would want that?

 

We already have portable emulated spectrums (not the vega) which work fantastically well

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