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


Robo_1
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So, I backed the first kickstarter on the basis of well defined, ready to roll product, but then sold out when it got a bit overwhelmed by feature creep due to stretch goals, etc. Well, having watched a few vids on the finished thing, I think I quite fancy it now, although pretty much solely to use as a nice HDMI Speccy, which it sounds like it does pretty well.

 

A few questions before I buy one from the SpecNext store:

 

1) Did they ever release a core with a framebuffer to fix the occasional timing issues over HDMI?

2) I'm interested in doing development. In the early days there were discussions about all kinds of exciting debugging/bitbanging etc being possible using the onboard Pi Zero, did any of these materialise?

 

It would arrive just in time for my mid-life crisis - what better time to write that Spectrum game I always meant to?

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1) No. There was later talk of a fix for KS2 but I've no idea if that is going to happen. What they will apparently fix though is the annoying issue whereby the machine receives power from the HDMI connection.

2) Not sure exactly what you mean, but you can hook the Pi up to a second display and output debug there.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Put some time aside this evening to actually sit and play some Next games which I just haven't done properly until now.

 

Warhawk. I'm a big big fan of the C64 original and this really feels like a super deluxe version. It's a really, really good game. Very much an 8-bit style shoot'em up but an excellent one. Music is cracking, new graphics are good. A few design decisions I'm not so keen on - 1) I've hit one section so far where enemies suddenly appear from behind with no warning 2) The second level boss, even with the patch installed, takes far too long to take down 3) some of the bosses could do with 'tells', especially where they're pushing out instant lasers.

 

Bikers. Well, this is surprisingly good. Essentially a Super Hang-on clone, but a really good, solid one. Tough too. I've yet to complete the first course on medium. Getting there though.

 

I'll stick Tyvarian on tomorrow night.

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Somebody on one of the FB groups is reporting that a good (and cheap) solution to the annoying HDMI back power issue is to simply add an HDMI surge protector like this one:

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Vbestlife-Protector-Portable-Protection-Device-Black-default/dp/B083KJ9DNC/ref=mp_s_a_1_9?dchild=1&keywords=hdmi+surge+protector&qid=1606605551&sprefix=hdmi+surge&sr=8-9

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  • 2 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 5 months later...
13 hours ago, ulala said:

do we know how the voting is going for the next kickstarter - do delay or have things produced in china?

I didn't know there was a vote but I saw a post on Facebook saying it was going to be produced in China. I didn't pay it much attention because I thought it was common practice for everything electrical to be made in China these days.

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10 hours ago, Anne Summers said:

I didn't know there was a vote but I saw a post on Facebook saying it was going to be produced in China. I didn't pay it much attention because I thought it was common practice for everything electrical to be made in China these days.

 

 

Im happy for it to be produced in china, why wait

 

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23 minutes ago, Dudley said:

Like the good Summers, I assume it was always produced in China.

 

it probably always was, with final assembly in the uk so they could appease certain groups and put a sticker on it.

 

 

 

 

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  • 4 months later...

So there's been quite an update on the Issue 2 of the Spectrum Next, boy oh boy does organising the creation of a hobbyist machine sound like an all out nightmare in these times. In short, they're unable to source the original FPGA board which powered the Next for anything like a sensible price and so they've been forced to had to source a more expensive alternative. This has set them back massively and having chosen an alternative and got the Next working on it, they now have to go through all the Q&A steps they had to take with the original design. All this whilst still trying to source the original FPGA boards if possible. Wow:

 

Quote

 

The FPGA Saga

 

Once upon a time, there was a board called TBBlue made by Victor Trucco and Fabio Belavenuto, with the Altera Cyclone IV FPGA at its core. This little blue board that could was simple to begin with, but it evolved with the efforts of Victor and Fabio, and finally led to the first Kickstarter campaign of the ZX Spectrum Next with the revision 2A board being born.

 

Since the revision 0 (there have been 0, 1, 2, 2A and 2B, the latter shipped inside the Next), the board no longer featured the Altera chip, but a competing one made by Xilinx: a $10 Spartan-6 FPGA. More powerful, cheaper and larger thanks to the unlocking of a stretch goal on the Kickstarter campaign, it became the standard heart beating inside the ZX Spectrum Next ever since 2017.

 

The Spartan-6 has been powering the Next and other similar or inspired boards, such as the N-Go, and rightly so. It’s a reliable chip, made by a huge company with a market cap of $40 billions plus, who soon enough cornered 50% of the FPGA market, leaving the other half split between Altera and several smaller competitors. Its design tools are top notch, and enabled the Next team to expand and improve the machine with every firmware update release.

Fast forward to Q3 2021 and we put an order for 5,900 Spartan-6s thinking little of it. The order didn’t go through, and we were asked to insert our company in an ‘Allocation List’ run by Xilinx, otherwise no supplier could fulfill our wishes. This sounded mighty strange, but we complied and began the process to feature in said list, amassing documents and reaching out to contacts left, right and centre.

 

In parallel, we began to see ‘spot’ prices for the Spartan-6, a $10 chip, going for $170. Soon it became clear why that was…

WIthout notice, Xilinx stopped shipping Spartan-6 chips, and there’s no timeline to when they will resume doing so. Any Spartan-6s in the wild are either existing stock held by middlemen or part of a tiny allocation amount (the Allocation List we referred to) Xilinx is in control of – and even those in said list are only getting between 1-2% of their requirements, according to Xilinx’s official distributors.

 

While the letter is dated October, in our experience the problems started way earlier than this...

Why this has happened is the stuff of a lot of hearsay. Our design bureau mentioned it was caused by a disagreement between Xilinx and Samsung (the owner of the fab that churns out the chips), but this is uncorroborated information. The fact remains that try as we might, we could not secure the chips, even going as high as $40 (four times the budgeted plan) apiece. Mouser, Avnet, Digikey, all exhausted of Spartan- 6s, with no outlook for restocking.

Through a very convoluted chain of contacts including AMD (who’s in the process of buying Xilinx), we managed to talk to Xilinx directors and managers, and their advice was clear: change your design, do not rely on the Spartan-6. The ‘why’ was amiss, but the message was clear and straight from the horse’s mouth. So… We did.

 

For the past two months we’ve been working non-stop on evaluating alternative FPGAs for the Spectrum Next, ranging from the Xilinx Artix-7 to Altera Cyclone 10, while trying to find anyone with Spartan-6 stock willing to sell at a reasonable price without luck (no refurbished chips, though, as we don’t want to run this quality risk). We have been delaying writing an update to the backers week on week in the hope that the latest lead would come through, we would secure the Spartans and deliver good news, but after doing this for six consecutive weeks, here we are updating you at long last.

 

We have not yet managed to secure Spartan-6 stock (although we are still trying), but succeeded in redesigning the board to be powered by the Artix-7, a larger (and more expensive!) sibling as a Plan B, which by now turned into Plan A in earnest.

 

As of today, we’ve got two revisions of the board ready: a finalised Revision 3 powered by the Spartan-6, and Revision 4 powered by the Artix-7, which we’re commissioning a test batch as you read this for full testing before entering production.

 

The new Artix-7 Revision 4 board and what does it mean to you

 

In practice, the only drawback of the Artix-7 based board (apart from its higher production cost $39 we will absorb), is that it requires a different firmware file. We wanted to avoid having two firmwares in existence – one for KS1 machines, one for KS2 computers – but it can’t be helped.

Otherwise, we will not put the extra space afforded by the Artix-7 to any features that would break compatibility with the existing Spectrum Nexts. This doesn’t mean we can’t use the spare Logic Cells for quality of life improvements such as UARTs, filters and so on, but that’s a topic for another day. For now, what you need to know is that there will be no functionality affected by this change (other than for the better), and that the Spectrum Next will remain fully compatible with the existing Nexts, with no breaking of parity in core features between the machines. The motto here is ‘one community’, and we’re sticking to it.

 

With the test boards ordered, we’ll do the testing as we should and ensure the Revision 4 performs as it must. As soon as it’s validated, the production gets a greenlight and we start manufacturing your ZX Spectrum Next. Which leads us to…

 

 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spectrumnext/zx-spectrum-next-issue-2/posts/3364778

 

So it sounds like backers are still going to be a year or so off from receiving their Next machines. Sounds like a total nightmare to be honest. Fair play to the team for offering to cover the increased cost of the new FPGA board, but the community are rallying around and many are offering to pay the difference themselves. If there is a Rev 3, expect it to be a mobile chip running the whole thing on an emulator, I can't imagine anybody on that team wish to put themselves through this again!

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On the other hand its been 6 years since the initial KS and it was heavily delayed then as well and its looking like at least another year with these issues. At least they are communicating about it but with prices for the original hitting £600/£700 on ebay the whole thing has just run out of steam at this point but good to see some people are still excited for it and we did get a new Dizzy so not all bad.

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29 minutes ago, Lorfarius said:

On the other hand its been 6 years since the initial KS and it was heavily delayed then as well and its looking like at least another year with these issues. At least they are communicating about it but with prices for the original hitting £600/£700 on ebay the whole thing has just run out of steam at this point but good to see some people are still excited for it and we did get a new Dizzy so not all bad.

 

I have been disappointed by the lack of software for it. There's a few bits and bobs out there and Delta's Shadow is legitimately excellent, but it's been a trickle of what my even modest hopes were for it. No regrets, it was always a niche thing and it's lovely to have been a part of it and we'll see what the future brings. From what I can find, 5235 people backed the thing the second time around with 3,113 backing the project the first time out, so when these things are finally delivered, the project could find its second wind as that's a healthy number of machines in the wild for a small market of enthusiasts.

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17 minutes ago, Robo_1 said:

 

I have been disappointed by the lack of software for it. There's a few bits and bobs out there and Delta's Shadow is legitimately excellent, but it's been a trickle of what my even modest hopes were for it. No regrets, it was always a niche thing and it's lovely to have been a part of it and we'll see what the future brings. From what I can find, 5235 people backed the thing the second time around with 3,113 backing the project the first time out, so when these things are finally delivered, the project could find its second wind as that's a healthy number of machines in the wild for a small market of enthusiasts.

 

I think they overpromised in a lot of ways as I remember all the push on the BBC and them talking about getting Amazon involved to sell as a big product which couldn't happen because they never got enough supply and the keyboard debacle. Could have been so much more sadly. I only dabble these days as I keep thinking I should get another but the prices are insane 🤣 Think there's an image setup for the Rasp Pi400 but its still not 100% compatible with the games yet, much better on that for anyone looking to dabble. I love the Pi400 as I have so many different computer setups sat on piles of SD cards and can use my PS4 pad with it.

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3 minutes ago, Lorfarius said:

 

I think they overpromised in a lot of ways as I remember all the push on the BBC and them talking about getting Amazon involved to sell as a big product which couldn't happen because they never got enough supply and the keyboard debacle. Could have been so much more sadly. I only dabble these days as I keep thinking I should get another but the prices are insane 🤣 Think there's an image setup for the Rasp Pi400 but its still not 100% compatible with the games yet, much better on that for anyone looking to dabble. I love the Pi400 as I have so many different computer setups sat on piles of SD cards and can use my PS4 pad with it.

 

I would love a retroarch core or something like that. Anything which expands support and gets more game developers on board.

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It’s a shame that they didn’t just re-use the original Kickstarter’s version for the second campaign. 
 

I’m really happy with the Next but now owning a MiSTER, I’ve got to say that the Next core is spot on if you don’t mind using a standard keyboard.

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3 hours ago, Lorfarius said:

At least they are communicating about it but with prices for the original hitting £600/£700 on ebay the whole thing has just run out of steam at this point but good to see some people are still excited for it and we did get a new Dizzy so not all bad.

 

£700! I shouldn't have sold mine so quickly. :lol:

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10 hours ago, Lorfarius said:

 

I think they overpromised in a lot of ways as I remember all the push on the BBC and them talking about getting Amazon involved to sell as a big product which couldn't happen because they never got enough supply and the keyboard debacle. Could have been so much more sadly. I only dabble these days as I keep thinking I should get another but the prices are insane 🤣 Think there's an image setup for the Rasp Pi400 but its still not 100% compatible with the games yet, much better on that for anyone looking to dabble. I love the Pi400 as I have so many different computer setups sat on piles of SD cards and can use my PS4 pad with it.


I don’t remember any talk of Amazon selling the Next. It’s never been funded upfront so wouldn’t even make sense. 
 

I love my Next, but accept it for what it is; a hobbyist machine available in very limited numbers. I expect we’ll continue to get a trickle of software for it in the same way we get homebrew for old consoles/micros. It’s a great way to play speccy stuff and has a really powerful version of BASIC if you’re that way inclined.

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10 minutes ago, Camel said:


I don’t remember any talk of Amazon selling the Next. It’s never been funded upfront so wouldn’t even make sense. 
 

 

Was in the early days of KS1 when the future of it all was being discussed.

 

Here we go:

 

 

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I’ve got no interest in buying a Next but something feels a bit off about saying you may as well use the core rather than buy the hardware that is going on sale. I know it’s a Spectrum at heart and thus an abandoned platform but it’s also not.

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On 19/01/2022 at 04:50, Robo_1 said:

 

I would love a retroarch core or something like that. Anything which expands support and gets more game developers on board.

I think I'd take an RPI 400 but in a case that these guys have designed. Or perhaps I just need to get an RPI 400 and find someone doing Spectrum vinyls for it.

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