Any child in the early 80s will be able to recount the joy of Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum computer. Now the Spectrum is born again with Sir Clive’s Vega Plus project.
Sinclair’s ZX Spectrum was a revolutionary step forward in home microcomputing on its release in 1982. Building on the success of Sinclair’s own basic black and white ZX81 and rivals such as Commodore’s VIC-20, it was known for its quirky rubber keyboard, limited graphic and audio capabilities and huge range of superb (and shoddy) games.
The Spectrum came in 16K and 48K RAM versions in its early versions, laughable by today’s standards. But the shear playability and challenge of 8-bit games like Manic Miner, Chucky Egg, Monty Mole and a host of titles from games houses like Ultimate, made it an early forerunner of the now well-developed console market. And now its inventor Sir Clive Sinclair has crowdfunded a preloaded Spectrum games console called the Vega Plus.
Spectrum Vega Funding Frenzy
Sinclair’s Spectrum Vega+ raised more than £300,000 in three weeks and the Indiegogo campaign currently stands at just under £500,000. Each Vega+ comes with 1,000 licensed games built in (and can load more from online fan sites). It’s a beautiful piece of kit for an independent console, using a low cost micro-controller and clever software to run the games – some 14,000 or more developed during the original computer’s life.
Retro Computers is the Luton-based start-up behind the console and it is backed by Sir Clive’s company Sinclair Research. Development and marketing are under licence from Sky In-Home Service, who inherited the intellectual property rights to Spectrum computers from Amstrad. Sir Clive Sinclair says the success of the original Spectrum was because “it was adaptable, approachable, very easy to program, and simple to use”. And his investment in the Vega+ is fuelled by a surge of interest in retro products that inspired him to back this handy, play anywhere games console.
But what about Jeff Minter?
Games programmers from the 1980s computer boom could be seen as an irrelevant footnote, but nothing could be further from the truth for people like Sinclair and games supremos like Jeff Minter. ‘Who?’ you ask. Well… Minter was the furry freak behind a slew of games featuring ruminants, including Attack of the Mutant Camels and Sheep in Space. A quick check into Minter and his company Llamasoft’s urrent cactivity reveals that he is heavily involved in producing VR games and lightsynths! He’s on Twitter at llamasoft_ox and his webpage is at minotaurproject.co.uk