Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Half Recreated ZX Spectrum

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Curiosity got the better of me, with some help from continuous price drops and forced my hand into the procurement of a Recreated ZX Spectrum. The Elite Systems clone of the original Sinclair Spectrums keyboard was one of the inspirations behind the starting of this blog. Given these reasons (or excuses) it's not surprising that I felt the desire to try one out, a kind of celebration of the year since beginning the AZ15 project.

I'm not in much of a position to pass judgement on the overall look, feel or experiential replication embodied by the Recreated ZX, you see I've never owned a rubber keyed Spectrum (I had a +2a for a while quite recently), in fact I've only ever seen them in the wild twice. The most recent Spectrum encounter was with an extremely beaten up system found resting quietly in a computer store in Delfzijl, up in the north eastern Netherlands.

My only other brush with a rubber Spectrum was half a world away and decades in between, at the Sydney Personal Computer Show in 1983, where Sinclair had a very prominent and striking black pavilion right at the entrance to the exhibition. As a young teenager and ZX81 owner, this encounter was beyond exciting, though sadly owning one of the beasts on display was not in my near future.

Regardless of the above, we can still judge the Recreated on it's functionality as a keyboard. There are good and bad points to this device. The good points first. The keyboard is stunning, I mean really stunning, it does look to me (with my limited experience) look like a Spectrum. Secondly the keyboard works flawlessly, at least for a rubber keyed throwback to times past as a PC keyboard, though certainly not recommended for daily typing. Frankly is quite fun to use the keyboard, gaze at the keyboard and generally fiddle with it for a while.

Despite the attention to detail shown externally and in the immediate PC-keyboard compatibility, the real use for this keyboard is with Spectrum emulators. This is where functionality falls apart. For whatever reason Elite crippled the keyboard by limiting its emulation use to Elites own suite of applications. None of these Elite applications are supported, let alone available due to ongoing legal disputes. So unless Emulator writers decide to include support for the Recreated Spectrum, the device is functionally useless for emulation purposes. 

There is of course always an option another option: Rip out the internals, grab an Adruino or other micro-controller and retrofit for purpose. In fact retrofitting looks quite achievable, I haven't as yet opened the little box up to check it over, but Tero Heikkinen at the Old Machinery blog has and the possibilities are promising. So this is what I think I'll end up trying out, and if so, I'll of course post the details here.

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