Building The ZX Raspberry – Part Four

In which our hero is unable to leave well alone

A little epilogue to the ZX Raspberry project. I came into possession of a very dead ZX Spectrum+ and, following my own personal rule of ‘it gets fixed or it gets modded’, I decided that it was time for a ZX Raspberry+. This project did away with the USB keyboard option, so just a standalone Raspberry Pi-driven unit.

ZX Raspberry+ Innards

ZX Raspberry+ Innards

I made a few improvements and discoveries along the way.

  1. It’s a lot easier to put all this gubbins in a Plus case rather than an original.
  2. The Raspberry PI + variant (+ or 2) is conveniently sized to place the HDMI and power alongside the expansion port (less cables!).
  3. The +’s reset switch makes a handy keyboard mode switch.
  4. A conclusion I reached during the first project was right, I didn’t need the resistors on KB1. Leave them and the power line out, wire the connector directly to the Pro Micro and just set the inputs to INPUT_PULLUP in the Arduino sketch. It does everything for you.

Finally, I was able to really speed up boot time by using PipaOS instead of the standard Rasbian distribution. It’s still Raspbian, but optimised for fast bootup and without a lot of the stuff you don’t need anyway. The results on a Raspberry PI 2 with a Class 10 SD card are quite something. Here’s a boot video:

Just a shade over 10 seconds. Not bad eh?

 

Building The ZX Raspberry – Part One

In which our hero plans and schemes

Despite wanting to convert a ZX Spectrum into a USB keyboard for some time, I held off to wait for the unlikely duo of the ZX Spectrum Vega and the Recreated ZX Spectrum. Sadly, neither buttered my parsnips, and the reasons why have been discussed at length around this Internet of ours, so I shall say no more here. What I really wanted a combination of the two: The stand-alone operation of the Vega and the keyboard of the ‘Recreated’.

Not being one to re-invent the wheel, I’d been reading over this Instructable wot I found and occasionally drooling over the excellent kits offered by Tynemouth Software. Then, a battered old Speccy case and the parts needed for a USB interface found their way onto a Facebook group for just £20, their current owner being caught between retro-project-awesomeness and ‘having a life’ and ‘friends’. Clearly making the wrong choice, he put them up for sale. … 

 

Restoring a VIC-20

I purchased this poor thing last week. After some initial mucking about, life was breathed into it once more. I had a a bit of fun getting the keyboard working but now she’s 100% operational and a welcome addition to the collection.

If you’re unfamiliar with the VIC-20, it was Commodore’s entry to the home computer market and a pre-cursor to the wildly successful C64. The VIC, despite boasting colour and sound at a time that the ZX81 was considered exotic, was held back to 3.5k of RAM (expandable to 16K) and poor resolution. Nevertheless, it was, and still is, a cracking little computer that saw the likes of Llamasoft’s Jeff Minter cutting their teeth in the gaming world.

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Breathing New (Composite) Life Into a Binatone Pong Console

Pong! What more could a young child want in 1978? Despite my formative years, I was already hooked on my friend’s magic-filled box of delights he described as a ‘TV Game’ (for ‘console’ was a word of the future). We would Pong, Pong and Pong some more. Then, in a rare moment of wish-fulfilment for a working-class lad from Liverpool, Santa brought me my very own TV Game, a Binatone no less! … 

 

Binatone Pong

 

2014-04-28 12.47.49 2014-04-28 12.48.26The first computer game I ever owned was this Binatone ‘TV Master MK IV’ – a simple unit that could play the standard Pong variants with a pair of analogue paddles. Yes, it may be simple, but I had hours of fun playing it. Sadly this isn’t my original but I did find it for just 99p on eBay. It Turned up filthy and I was pretty convinced it wouldn’t work. I’m very happy to say I was wrong.