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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.

Wrapping up 2018

Posted by Henrique Olifiers (Creator)
141 likes

Following the last update with an X-Ray of the project featuring all the major tasks done and pending, we’ve spent four weeks working hard on the keyboard to advance towards the final milestone, plus extra work on the ever-changing manual content and expanding the features of the firmware, which is now on version 2.00.X. Without further ado, let’s get on to it! 
 

The keyboard progress

Last week we’ve got the keyboard membrane attached with the silicon domes that provide the spring action of the keys, now readying the membrane for assembling inside the keyboard frame and metal backplate. With this done, our partner can work on the final assembly to allow us to test it inside the case, and move to keyboard production.

Bubbly!
Bubbly!

 
The ‘Keyboard Keys Printing Test’ task in the plan from the last update is now done, with sample keys laser etched for resolution testing. In the final product, after the keys are etched with the laser, they are painted with a bright white over the etching to ensure the original look of the Spectrum Next. The etching and painting together create a unique surface and shape for each key (thus a unique feel), and they ensure the letters never fade as it can happen with traditional tampo printing with much usage. 

I expect you to die, Mr. Bond...
I expect you to die, Mr. Bond...

 
We’re now waiting for a full sample of the keys, fully painted, along with the assembled keyboard for compatibility testing with the case. We are pretty sure there won’t be any problems of fitting the keyboard with the case, since there wasn’t a problem with the board itself -- the case dimensions were perfect the first time around thanks to Rick and Phil’s diligent work, the same should apply to the keyboard.

Fingers crossed the next update we’ll have the keyboard done!

 
Firmware update

Phoebus, Garry, Allen and Jim have been hard at work getting the firmware improved with the extra time created by the keyboard delay. There are a lot of updates and new features already added to 2.00.X, and we are planning on shipping the Next with this core out of the box. Check out the partial features set:

The following things have been fixed:

  • Peripheral compatibility on the expansion bus is continually being refined. Being able to fully disable divMMC post boot now allows peripherals like the plusD to function correctly.
  • The Drive button no longer resets the Next if divMMC is disabled.
  • The DMA now allows for longer sampling rates at all speeds. Additionally it returns all idle cycles to CPU in burst mode and implements a daisy chain for multiple bus masters. Finally, wait states stretch read/write cycles rather than insert delays between read/write cycles.
  • Timex hi-res mode is no longer offset by 1 px to the left.
  • Compatibility with some ESP modules which could hang the Next on reset has been addressed.
  • Setting volume 0 on the AY modules actually makes the AY silent.
  • The UART has been improved significantly and now setting the LSB of UART pre-scalar (BAUD rate) only affects LSB.
  • Soviet clone compatibility has been improved. Specifically the border timing has been fixed and proper power decoding on 0x7ffd (i.e. “Kpacku Deluxe”) has been implemented.
  • NextReg 7 now returns the actual CPU speed and NextReg 0x18, 0x19, 0x1A and 0x1C are actually readable.
  • The membrane module has been completely redone allowing for all types of membranes to be used. Dual layer original 48K, triple layer 128K/+/+2 and the new dual/split contact Next layer membrane. This fixes significant issues, allowing the production of the keyboards to finally conclude.

The following capabilities have been added:

  • L2 Priority colours: By setting the first bit of the second byte in a palette entry, this colour now overprints everything regardless of the order of layers, thus providing for a non-cpu time cost solution for environmental masking.
  • Darken/Brighten modes (by implementing layer colour mixing) has been implemented. SLU modes (111 and 110) with lighting and shadow effects requiring no CPU time also.
  • Full 14MHz speed for ULA modes. Prior to this the CPU would drop to 7MHz every time the Next was writing to the screen. This gives a significant CPU boost to older games and non L2 software.
  • Multi-core capability. Firmware can now select a specific core (0-31) to start (Firmware update is pending for this functionality).
  • The sprite engine has been redesigned from the ground up allowing for up to 64 sprites per line, 4 bit colour sprites and up to 4x scaling on the X and Y axes.
  • Z80N has been enhanced with six more instructions: 5 x barrel shift/rotate and 1 JP.
  • Each AY can now be made monophonic (via NextReg 0x09 bits 7:5)
  • NextReg 0x03 writes with bit 7 set now accepted in any mode to change timings (bits 6-4), NextReg 9 bit 3 disables the Kempston mouse port ($DF) and read of NextReg 0x3 bit 7 now returns the next palette byte to be written (0=RRRGGGBB, 1=B-low) and NextReg 0x15 bit 5=1 enables clipping in over border mode for the sprites.

A monumental shout out and huge thanks to the team who have made all this possible. These fixes and enhancements are brought to you by tireless and unrelenting work of: 

Allen “Santa Claus” Albright, Jim “St Nicholas” Bagley, Garry “Father Christmas” Lancaster

 
Latest cool stuff on the Next

Since this is the last update before Xmas, it’s the best time for going over some of the latest developments in the software side of things, as a lot of amazing games and apps have been cooking for the Next.

 
Atic Atac Tribute

Kev Brady is teasing the Spectrum Next Games group with a Next version of his PC tribute to Atic Atac. Nothing much is available so far other than this intro video, but… Just look at it!

 project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

 
 
Montana Mike

Adrian Cummins is at it again, fresh from Dungeonette and Deltastar, with Montana Mike -- an Indiana Jones inspired bash of a game taking full advantage of the Next sprites and speed. 
 

 
You can grab all Adrian’s games at Itch.io here: https://softamuse.itch.io/ 
 

NXTel

Fancy connecting the Next to videotext? Well, Robin Verhagen-Guest has the solution with NXTel -- check it out:

 
 
Hollow Earth Hypothesis

Lampros Potamianos is hard at work on his Jules Verne inspired Hollow Earth Hypothesis, putting the Next video modes to good work. 
 

 project video thumbnail
Replay with sound
Play with
sound

 
If you want to check out more games, demos and apps, head to the Gaming on the ZX Spectrum Next group and join the discussion.

 
2018 is a goner…

When? And here we are: the year when the cased Spectrum Next should be with you has come and is almost gone, leaving our Christmas stockings empty of the full cased Next. We’ve shared with you how frustrating this has been for the entire team (not nearly as frustrating as it is for the backers), but now we can at least get more solid on the shipping date thanks to the recent developments on the keyboard.

With the convergence of all the last bits of the project, we’re keen to ship the Next as soon as we can -- and that’s looking like Q2 2019 the latest. We’ll burn the midnight oil to shave as much time from production as we can (never compromising on the quality!) and try to ship it earlier than Q2, but just to make we don’t promise and fail to deliver, that’s the official date.

A huge thanks for the patience, support, deserved criticism, feedback, love and… Just being the incredible community of the Spectrum Next you’ve helped build.

Here’s to 2019: The year of the ZX Spectrum Next! Cheers, folks!!!

Comments

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    1. Missing avatar

      Mark Broadbent on

      @jatmundua There is the odd person asking to buy the Next (find the odd comment in the Facebook group or on Twitter), so you might be able to sell on your Kickstarter backing to them. Good luck.

    2. Missing avatar

      Dennis on

      Thanks to ALL for the tremondous effort you have put into making the Spectrum Next happen, if you had told me as a boy this would happen, Hell, if you told me a few years back, i would have laughed my head off, it's Bloody Amazing!!

    3. ET3D on

      Thanks for the update, and have a great 2019.

    4. Missing avatar

      SIMON on

      Great update team Next! The attention to detail is worth the delay as it will result in a final product that backers will be able to use and enjoy for years to come.

      Regarding Brexit and shipping to EU - I have more faith in the Next being delivered to backers than Brexit coming to any kind of conclusion. The political shenanigans will continue for a while yet before anything actually changes. Second referendum anyone?

    5. Missing avatar

      Shred on

      I am concerned about a hard Brexit, too. It could mean further delays and costs for EU backers, or (worst case) that the Next is not allowed to be imported into the EU at all. On the other hand, it is likely that there will be a transition phase after March 2019, so everything could go smoothly.

      Still, I would love to hear a comment from the team about their plans in the case of a hard Brexit.

    6. Missing avatar

      Heinz Roesner on

      I think you are doing a great job. I am concerned about a hard Brexit too, which could mean additional costs for EU backers. Let's hope the best!

    7. M Hutton on

      Always good to see more progress … keep up the god work :)

    8. Missing avatar

      jatmundua on

      Depressed. Now I'm out of work and with economic problems. With the tariffs of the Spanish customs it will be impossible to rescue my Next and it will be retained forever in customs. Spanish customs does not return it to the sender. The Spanish customs destroys it to avoid having to pay the refund. I could check with several Chinese products that were never returned to the seller. All my effort to help you financially in a project that I will not be able to enjoy. I'm not pessimistic. I'm realist.

      Deprimido. Ahora estoy sin trabajo y con problemas económicos. Con los aranceles de la aduana española será imposible rescatar mi Next y quedará retenido para siempre en aduana. La aduana española no lo devuelve al remitente. La aduana española lo destruye para no tener que pagar la devolución. Lo pude comprobar con varios productos chinos que no fueron devueltos jamás al vendedor. Todo mi esfuerzo por ayudaros económicamente en un proyecto que ya no podré disfrutas. No soy pesimista. Soy realista.

    9. Missing avatar

      RobertPS on

      Great update, a bit worried about a likely delivery date after brexit and EU imposed duties and taxes.

    10. Elba Stevenson
      Superbacker
      on

      Thanks for the update

    11. Missing avatar

      Kevin Simmons on

      Great news, better to take ones time than rush a project through just to get it done and dusted. 😊

    12. Missing avatar

      John Ioannou
      Superbacker
      on

      Many thanks for the update.
      Q2 it is!

    13. Adrian Cummings on

      Thanks for the update and indeed the mention and link.

    14. Missing avatar

      Artur Poldan on

      Great news, and thanks for great dedication to the project.

    15. Missing avatar

      roberto on

      Nice, my wife's gift for my 2017 June birthday will be probably become her gift for my 2019 June birthday :D :D

    16. Dave Rowland on

      So it looks like we be picking them up at Revivals 2019 in June ?!

    17. Missing avatar

      zyser on

      Thanks for the update, thanks for the team members and those contrinuting to this wonderful machine. I appreciate all the good work put into this, and wish it be a big success

    18. SaruwatariKaito on

      Thanks for the update, looking forward to hands on.