It's a Speccy, but not as we know it...
A little while ago I got on a bit of a retro-thing. It started with the consoles, then moved on to computers. As the world seems to be going a bit insane these days on retro gear price wise, I thought I'd canvas my mates on Facebook and see if any of them had some old kit in their loft that they didn't want any more. Didn't matter if it worked or not. A few stepped up to the plate and I'm very grateful to them all. The focus of this particular blog however, will be on the package that Mat Pittard sent me.
Inside there were no sex toys to be found (unless you're into some weird shit!). Indeed in there was a 48K Sinclair ZX Spectrum. Not working, but that's just part of the challenge. It was a little scruffy.
The first thing we did was strip it to see if there was anything obviously wrong with it. In this case it was pretty simple as the keyboard membrane was nowhere to be found. That out of the way we tested the main board. Which powered up no problem and came to the good old 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd screen. Marvellous. It did however look awful over the RF lead, so out came the RF modulator to be re-wired as a composite video out. An absolute doddle of a job on one of these.
Happy I could resurrect the machine for the price of a membrane (about a tenner), I thought I'd look into options for replacing the tape drive for loading games. I found the DivMMC Enjoy which looked just the ticket. Then I found something else and I had a moment of pure *want*. Plus, applying some man-maths made it actually seem cheap. It was something like: so it's got the SD card... But on top I get a 128K Spectrum, a ULA, a RGB cable and a Kempston Joystick interface, all for not a lot more (relatively speaking)... I couldn't not really.
The Just Speccy 128 by Zaxon (Piotr Bugaj) is everything I've just mentioned. A swap out mainboard for any Spectrum with features galore. I've bunged some links below, but beware before you click, you will want one.
Where he sells them
A bit of work was required to get the donor bits of the Speccy up to scratch for the new bits. In the past someone had tried to bond the faceplate on (they were originally held on by sticky back tape) and the compound they used had eaten into the case plastics all over the place. It was pretty grim. What we couldn't scratch off we had to sand, getting it to the stage were we had to sand the whole enclosure. There were even bits underneath that needed doing. We had to attack the back of the faceplate with the Dremmel to get it off.
At this point I also decided that a new faceplate and keyboard would look out of place with the less than perfect case so decided to keep those and clean them up as best we could. So the only additional things I bought were a new keyboard membrane and some replacement rubber feet, again from another seller (RWAP) on SellMyRetro.
When the JS128 board landed, some modifications to the case were required to make it all fit. Again, Dremmel time to some bits on the inside and to add a hole for the Joystick port (removed the bolts for screws here also so they could be hidden), and a slot for the SD card. It also needed a couple of holes for the switch and button, which I'll go into later. Once that was all done and I was happy it was all fitting nice, it went to Mr Clegg to give it a few coats of satin black paint.
I've got to say, I'm more than pleased with the results. Sure it's not perfect, but it's 30+ years old and it looks pretty bloody good. The extra bits on the back are a swtich to turn the DivSD subsystem on and off. When it's off it behaves like a stock Speccy 128. When it's on it runs ESXDOS with a menu front end for all the stuff on the SD card. You stick your games and demos on there and off you go. So far it seems to play most things. Though it has trouble with some Ultimate stuff sadly (mentioned on the DivIDE wiki). The button resets back to the menu when you're in this mode.
Other than that you've got an RGB out replacing the RF jack, the Kempston joystick port and the SD card slot. It's all really rather neat.
Quite frankly, this is one of the coolest things ever (I'm fully aware my definition of cool may be somewhat different to just about everyone elses). If you have any nostalgia investment in the Spectrum, this has to be the ultimate incarnation of it.
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