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The ZX Spectrum reborn: a new machine, fully compatible with the original computer, and packed with improvements and expansions.
The ZX Spectrum reborn: a new machine, fully compatible with the original computer, and packed with improvements and expansions.
3,113 backers pledged £723,390 to help bring this project to life.

Project status: an X-ray (and the latest)

Posted by Henrique Olifiers (Creator)
199 likes

In this update, aside from the latest on the keyboard progress, we’ll make a deep dive into the general status of the project listing all the tasks that are done and the ones pending between now and shipping.

The reasons for this are quite straightforward: first, we’re ten months late with the shipping of the complete Spectrum Next (thankfully at least the board pledges didn’t suffer this much delay) and a retrospective is in order to recap and inform you what has been done so far; and some backers are understandably disappointed with the length of the delay, and requested a detailed account of what’s missing before the completion of the project.

Lastly, we’ll wrap with the rationale underlying the delay -- why it is taking place. While this is no excuse, it helps understand the reason behind our woes in this final stretch.

Let’s go!

 
Keyboard latest

There are good news here: the issues identified by Phil Candy (and shared in the previous update) on the injection of the keys and the small depression it was causing have been fixed, the keys now meet our expectations and look exactly as they should, including the polished finish around the key surface.

The shiny bits worked out just fine, and gone are the depressions
The shiny bits worked out just fine, and gone are the depressions

 
They are now being printed with the labels (characters, commands etc.) and in parallel a test keyboard is being assembled with all the keys (including special keys such as Space, Enter and the like) in order to fit-test in the case. Once this is done, we should be ready for mass injection of the keyboard plastics, mass printing and keyboard assembly pre-shipping to SMS for full computer assembly.

They belong together
They belong together

 

Boards production & Assembly stations

While we have reported in the past that the boards were in production at SMS facilities, there’s a small update: a picture of all the boards done, stored in racks, and the assembly stations where the Spectrum Next is going to be put together, boxed and shipped worldwide. It’s a heart-warming photo for the team, finally seeing where the last step of the project will take place before it goes into the wild and to you, the backers who made the project happen.

Note the purpose of each station, and the daugherboards rack with the 2,976 boards
Note the purpose of each station, and the daugherboards rack with the 2,976 boards

 

Project summary

Below is a list of all the major steps of the Spectrum Next production. This list is not meant to be exhaustive: some smaller and repeated steps are absent as they don’t help to understand the current progress status. Should you want to learn more about any particular step, or a breakdown of a particular part of the project, drop an email to info@specnext.com and we’ll get back to you.

 
Hardware design

  • Testing proto board v0 (DONE)
  • Production board v1 (DONE)
  • Final board v2 & v2A (DONE)
  • Board update v2B (DONE)
  • Testing proto Daughterboard v0 (DONE)
  • Production Daughterboard v1 (DONE)
  • Final Daughterboard v2 (DONE)

 
Software design

  • Firmware v0 (DONE)
  • Firmware v1 (DONE)
  • Anti-brick (DONE)
  • NextOS v1 (DONE)
  • First Time Install software (DONE)

 
Manual

  • Manual design v0 (DONE)
  • Manual design v1 (DONE)
  • Manual revision v1,001+ (DONE)
  • Final manual (DONE - but still updating!)
  • Manual cover art (DONE)

 
Plastics

  • Case design v0 (DONE)
  • Case design v1 (DONE)
  • Case CADs (DONE)
  • Case molds (DONE)
  • Case test injection T1 (DONE)
  • Case T1 adjustments (DONE)
  • Case test injection T2 (DONE)
  • Case T2 adjustments (DONE)
  • Final Case test injection (DONE)
  • Stripes and light column test injection (DONE)
  • Stripes and light column final test injection (DONE)
  • Keyboard design v0 (DONE)
  • Keyboard design v1 (DONE)
  • Keyboard CADs (DONE)
  • Keyboard molds (DONE)
  • Keyboard test injection T1 (DONE)
  • Keyboard T1 adjustments (DONE)
  • Keyboard test injection T2 (DONE)
  • Keyboard T2 adjustments (DONE)
  • Keyboard keys printing test (TO DO)
  • Final Keyboard backplate test injection (TO DO)
  • Final Keyboard assembly & Case fit test (TO DO)

 
Accessories

  • Box design v0 (DONE)
  • Box design v1 (DONE)
  • Box internals v0 (DONE)
  • Box internals v1 (DONE)
  • Final Box design (DONE)
  • Box materials testing, UV layer (DONE)
  • PSU procurement (DONE)
  • PSU black box replacement design (DONE)
  • SD card procurement (DONE)
  • SD card tests (DONE)
  • SD cards printing (DONE)
  • SD cards shipping to UK (DONE)

 
Production

  • Parts procurement v0 (DONE)
  • Parts procurement v1 (DONE)
  • Parts procurement v2 (DONE)
  • Parts procurement v2A (DONE)
  • Parts procurement v2B (DONE)
  • Parts procurement Daughterboard v0, 1 & 2 (DONE)
  • Main Box printing (DONE)
  • Main Box shipping to SMS (DONE)
  • Post Box shipping to SMS (DONE)
  • PSU Box printing (DONE)
  • PSU Bos shipping to SMS (DONE)
  • Manual printing (TO DO)
  • Manual shipping to SMS (TO DO)
  • SD cards content copy as SMS (TO DO)
  • Just the Board v2A (DONE)
  • Just the Board shipping to backers (DONE)
  • Burn-in tests 2A (DONE)
  • Burn-in tests 2B (DONE)
  • Spectrum Next v2B boards (DONE)
  • Spectrum Next v2 Daughterboards (DONE)
  • Case mass-plastic injection (TO DO)
  • Keyboard mass-plastic injection (TO DO)
  • Keyboard final assembly (TO DO)
  • Keyboard shipping to case production (TO DO)
  • Case & Keyboard shipping to SMS (TO DO)
  • Final Spectrum Next assembly (TO DO)
  • Shipping to backers (TO DO)

 
It’s important to note that each step has a completely unique timeline and length, meaning each has its own ‘weight’ when calculating the total project duration. Case in point, the keyboard was estimated to be a 3 months process, but has taken 2x longer than predicted; meanwhile the Anti-brick, for instance was done much quicker than expected at 2 days (rather than 2 weeks) and so on.

 
Why the keyboard and case have been such a long process

Recapping: The major delays of the project were caused by the case and the keyboard. First our plastics manufacturer in charge of the case dropped the project unexpectedly following the departure of their manager handling the Next, forcing a last-minute switch to a new partner earlier this year (which thankfully turned out to be much cooler). The delay on the case affected the keyboard, as these two were meant to be made in parallel due them needing to fit together and their large storage size -- we need to start assembly as soon as they arrive at SMS or we will accumulate large costs for storage, thus they need to be injected at roughly the same time.

As it turned out, the keyboard was more complex and slower to produce than predicted, and now remains the final hurdle to shipping.

At the core of the issue is a problem of scale. In order to manufacture 3,000 cases or keyboards, the partners have to undergo the same amount of work required to manufacture 500,000 cases or keyboards: they have to be designed, tested, molds produced in much the same way, and yet only a fraction will be made and paid for, squeezing their margins if compared to larger projects they regularly undertake.

Thus the partners for both the case and the keyboard are very special people who agreed to undertake the project because they like what we’re building.

It’s not difficult at all to find a company ready to manufacture plastics and keyboards at the small scale we require, this is not a challenge. What is very hard and rare is to find a specialist company, whose standards are as high as the project’s established quality goals, with large amount of experience and ready to undertake a small order such as ours. This is so because companies with these standards and expertise are very sought-after particularly by large projects and big customers.

This is exactly what happened with the plastics provider who let us down early on -- when the internal champion of the project left the company, their replacement decided the project wasn’t worth the time and budget and dropped it.

Water under the bridge, the case is ready thanks to our awesome plastics partner, waiting for mass injection after we put the keyboard and case together in a final fitting test.

The keyboard, though, originally expected to take three months for design and testing, is nearing six months of production now. We’re getting there one step at a time, but it’s taking a long time indeed and there isn’t much we can do about it, as our partner is moving as quickly as they can afford to.

 
And the manual?

The keen eye might have spotted that we haven’t yet printed the manual or copied the contents of the SD cards. This is so because Phoebus Dokus and the collaborators are constantly revising the manual content, adding new functionalities as soon as they are rolled out and added to both the firmware and NextOS by Gary Lancaster and others. The plan is to lock the manual content as soon as the plastics start injecting, thus printing and dispatching to SMS in parallel to the case and keyboard. This will allow the manual to be as up to date as possible.

And that’s the summary of the project in a nutshell. We’ve been accelerating the keyboard production as of late, now that most adjustments to the keys have been done. Myself, Mike and Phil are in daily contact with the keyboard partner, pushing the production along as fast as we can. Now it’s getting the keys printed, the T2 keyboard assembled and fitted in the case, and full production.

Most people working on the project today are original backers who volunteered their time to help out. We’re as frustrated as any backer with the delay, and as eager to get our Nexts as everyone else. I, for one, can’t wait to have my Next sitting on my desk playing Baggers in Space… We will continue to push and get it out as soon as we can, rest assured.

Stuart Mehrtens, Rob O, and 197 more people like this update.

Comments

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    1. Iestyn Davies 2 days ago

      Careful Martin, if you express an opinion contrary to others you’ll get labelled an ignorant 5 year old!

    2. martin Lindholm 2 days ago

      So it will be at least ONE YEAR delay for this, will it be two? three? four? sixtyfive? This is ridiculous

    3. Iestyn Davies on

      Vasileios, was that aimed at anyone in particular?

    4. Missing avatar

      Vasileios on

      To all of the people who complain... I really don't get you. The design team is hard at work to deliver a high quality product! Be sensible and don't talk and act like 5 year olds! Imagine if Grand Theft Auto or games like Zelda and Mario which you all know how great they are and how long they take to develop and iron the bugs, were rushed by the companies just to satisfy your impatience and ignorance... I prefer to have a nice, well build product delivered later than promised than a rushed full of bugs product...

    5. Iestyn Davies on

      Wow John, you’re determined that 2020 is the delivery date aren’t you! You’re also happy to accept a 2020 delivery date for everyone else too! Thanks but if it’s all the same with you I’ll be hoping for an early 2019 delivery date. Even with all the technical issues I think a 12-15 month delayed delivery is ample!

    6. Missing avatar

      John Ioannou
      Superbacker
      on

      Case mass-plastic injection (TO DO)
      Keyboard mass-plastic injection (TO DO)
      Keyboard final assembly (TO DO)

      Looking forward to all the monthly updates coming up for these 3 big tasks.
      A great year of technical updates to follow and then we get our hands on what we have waited for all these years.

      Keep up the excellent work.

    7. KingMonkey on

      I'm almost gonna miss these updates when the Next finally ships! Getting to know & understand the level of detail that has been put into the Next is amazing and this is mainly down to the way you've communicated throughout the campaign which has been exemplary.

    8. Missing avatar

      Rob Houghton on

      To update your delivery address open the ‘Survey’ page using a PC browser. I couldn’t open the page properly using a mobile IOS device. I think the team has done an amazing job so far and wish them every success with the closing stages of the project!!

    9. Jari Komppa on

      Thank you for the update, and sorry about whining about the lack of roadmap the last time =)

    10. Missing avatar

      Mark Broadbent on

      Thank you so much for the attention to detail with this. Whilst obviously chomping at the bit to get my hands on my Next, I would far rather something that is Uber awesome than just awesome. So keep up the good work!

    11. Stephen D Storr on

      A very thorough and comprehensive update. Keep up the good work, I am in no rush...

    12. Missing avatar

      Rui Manuel Silva Martins on

      Thank you for the honest and frequent updates.
      You guys are an example, of how crowd funding campaigns should be done.

    13. Missing avatar

      Dan Goodinson on

      I'm very much looking forward to the finished product. Even though there is a delay to originally communicated timeline, this delay is more than offset (very much MORE than offset) by the excellent and frequent updates. I've only backed a few projects over the years but this one is by far the best experience I've had - and that's down to spot-on comms.

      Thanks for all the hard work, but thanks also for taking the time to keep backers up to date. Perfection takes time, and I'm happy to wait because you're telling (and showing) us what's happening.

      Spot on, guys. Seriously.

    14. Missing avatar

      Maurizio Mariotti on

      Grazie dall'Italia a tutto il team che sta lavorando con grande impegno e passione alla realizzazione dello Spectrum Next.
      Il traguardo è vicino !!!!

    15. ET3D on

      I'm still here, cheering you all the way to making the ZX Spectrum Next. :)

    16. Missing avatar

      Normunds on

      "..some backers are understandably disappointed with the length of the delay.."
      It's just a psychology of people. If you would have promised Nexts at the end of this year, everyone would just sit and wait for the Next and no one would have been disappointed...
      Big respect about this thing you are doing!

    17. Missing avatar

      roberto on

      Maybe last update will be 48'? (i am kidding, but 48 is a cool number for a Sinclair Spectrum computer :) . Seriously, I believe so much in the project and I trust blindly the guys behind it ... and I do not care when I'll receive it, I am convinced that it will be perfect and that it will have deserved all the waiting

    18. Dean Howard Smith on

      What is the possibility of purchasing a bare case for my dev board? And if so how much?

    19. Missing avatar

      Richard Temple on

      I've not once been concerned about the delays. You've been so professional about this and clearly want the end product to be top quality. Kudos to all involved.

    20. Rob on

      To quote Derek, it would be good to have an update on the stretch goals:

      Software (Nodes of Yesod, DreamWorld Pogie, Dizzy, No Fate, Rex Next),
      Bagley's programming course,
      the Internet toolbox, and ESX-DOS

      Keep up the good work

    21. Missing avatar

      Magnamundian on

      Why does this leave me thinking we're further away from shipping than the -last- update.

      Considering how fiddly the keys were going to be I don't understand why it was left until last.

    22. Philip Stephens on

      @Dan: if you want to complain about the delay, go ahead, but it changes nothing. Those of us you wish to disparage merely accept the delay exists and understand life goes on and we all have better things to do than complain about a Kickstarter project running late.

    23. Missing avatar

      Dennis on

      Thanks so much for the ridiculous amount of effort everyone involved has put into this project, very much appreciated

    24. Missing avatar

      John Ioannou
      Superbacker
      on

      Since the keyboard has taken some 6 months, can we assume the case itself is likely to take around 9-12. It be ideal gift for autumn 2019!

    25. Matt Smith on

      RONAN, You can update your address yourself. go to KS, Pledge, Survey and update your
      address there.

    26. Missing avatar

      Michael Gibs on

      Would have been cool to have it for Christmas :)

    27. Missing avatar

      Vitaly Vaznais on

      Thank you for so detailed update. I'm not following facebook, don't know if all details was shared before. They're a huge interest in retro gaming systems nowadays. Live long and prosper spectrum next.

    28. Elba Stevenson
      Superbacker
      on

      Thanks for the update.

    29. Missing avatar

      Artur Poldan on

      Great news! This is great team doing great project. I can wait as long as it takes.

    30. Missing avatar

      Ronan on

      Hey, I've asked many times: can you please update my shipping address. When / if this thing finally ships, I don't want it going to an address I haven't lived at in a year or something.
      Get in touch with me for a new address. If I don't hear back from you this time I'll escalate to Kickstarter directly.
      Ronan

    31. Missing avatar

      Tony Bolton on

      Great update thanks as ever!

      @Petr I believe you can download the manual so far via the Facebook group. I had a quick look and looks great!

    32. Marc M. Kloosterman on

      @Petr Horak - Yes, on the Spectrum Next Facebook group, Chapters of the book have been posted, for others to proof-read.

    33. Scott Fleming on

      Excellent update, I'm hoping the next update will announce the shipping date.

    34. Missing avatar

      gary mcnab on

      Thanks for the update. Keep up the good work .
      Gary at The CODE Show

    35. Derek Chandler
      Superbacker
      on

      As well as the main project perks (the actual boxed Next, +3e OS, RTCs, accelerators, SD cards, manuals and packaging) there are other perks too added as stretched goals: software (Nodes of Yesod, DreamWorld Pogie, Dizzy, No Fate, Rex Next), Bagley's programming course, the Internet toolbox, and ESX-DOS. How are these going?

    36. Missing avatar

      Russell Glover on

      This is seriously one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever backed.

      I’m not personally worried about the delays as you follow it up with detailed and honest updates.

      So glad I backed you.

    37. Missing avatar

      Dan laine on

      I am one of the vocal minority who is very disappointed with the delay.
      I see an original target of January 2018 is going to now be January 2019 if we are lucky.
      I'm glad to see you have now stopped announcing release dates. After all if you do not announce a release date you can't be criticised for missing it 😉
      I look forward to the same boring people telling me to give up my pledge if I don't like the project, once again ignoring the actual criticism in favour of their own projected insecurities being laid on me.
      Still the project looks good, just a shame it's created such a hyper defensive and toxic minority at it's core. Once again showing that the spectrum community is it's own worst enemy.

    38. Missing avatar

      Vicky Lee Chatt on

      Hi, Thanks for the update. Matt keys would of been fine for me! Hope the SID is going in too! After all that's why i backed origonaly watching this demo demo by Henrique Olifiers! on the SID https://youtu.be/8fusdhM082E. Multi coloured graphics with SID SOUND running basic at 25MHZ can't wait for Christmas! "Croisez les doigts"

    39. Missing avatar

      Stephen B on

      Great update, it's nice to see all those "DONE"s

    40. Missing avatar

      Rob Gregorczyk on

      You read my mind.
      This is just the sort of update I needed in order to keep the faith.
      Good luck with the final push.

    41. Paul Morrough on

      Great update, and a reflection of the honesty and transparency that has been a feature of this campaign. I’ve waited since my teens for a new Spectrum so the delay is all relative in the grand old scheme of things. Keep it going, and huge thanks to all the volunteers for their dedication too.

    42. Missing avatar

      Sean Mellor on

      awesome news, nearly there, *does a happy dance*

    43. Missing avatar

      zyser on

      Thanks for reviewing all the major steps undertaken on this wonderful project. Please stay cool and don't lose your enthusiasm, I have lots admiration for the amount of care you, the team, the amazing developers, and your partners putting into this, I am confident this care will translate into a lasting and memorable machine that we will cherish, I look forward to it, and hope it will be succesful one so more Spectrum Next will be made for those who missed out. I know they are plenty out there!

    44. Missing avatar

      Petr Horak on

      This may have been asked before, but did you consider sharing a beta version of the manual with us, common people, for a bit of proof reading, etc? In any case - thank you for what you're doing, and I think the wait, as painful as it may be, is still worth it.

    45. Missing avatar

      Graeme Nattress on

      Thanks again for the comprehensive update and attention to detail