Having started out with a Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128K way back in the mid '80's I was excited to see the recent Kickstarter for the new ZX Spectrum Next which I promptly backed back in May. I have also created a handheld Spectrum Next which can be found over here.
For those unaware of the Spectrum Next, it is a recreation of the existing Spectrum hardware inside an FPGA. Not software emulation but real hardware! Finally a successor to the '80s Speccy with more RAM, better graphics, better sound, better keyboard, mass storage using an SD card, hardware acceleration with a PI Zero and much more.
The Spectrum Next team were targeting a release of Late August/September for the Spectrum Next PCB only and January 2018 for the full, cased version of the Next. I backed both with the intention to take the bare Next PCB and create a Spectrum Laptop around it. There were several delays for the Next Board Only, however in early December it arrived so I can begin making this laptop a reality!
Here are some shots of the design for the ZX spectrum Next Laptop. Ignore the colour, they will of course be 3D printed in Speccy Black:
To create a working laptop requires careful consideration of which parts to use. Things like the keyboard and LCD will need to be off the shelf components. Thankfully there are plenty of options here thanks to places like Ebay and Amazon.
The screen selected is an 8" 4:3 ratio LCD. Billed as a Raspberry Pi screen it will do the job perfectly.
I had originally intended to hook up the display via the VGA connector, however due to various issues with the Next firmware and this particular screen I decided to do it via the HDMI connection instead. By this time I had already removed the VGA scoket from the Next board! I will leave this socket out for now but may put it back in the future.
For the keyboard it was a choice between PS/2 or USB. The Spectrum Next comes with a PS/2 connector to enable a mouse/external keyboard to be attached. My initial preference was to find a compact PS/2 keyboard, however these were hard to come by. Most of the keyboards found were too thick for what I wanted. I needed a very slim keyboard, perhaps a few millimetres thick at the most.
The size requirement would mean the PS/2 keyboards tested were out of the question leaving only a single USB keyboard, that could be removed from it's casing and used in the new laptop. I had to wait until I received my Next board to test whether this USB keyboard would work via a PS/2 adaptor and, thankfully, it does.
Some other boards needed are the LCD driver board, Raspberry Pi Zero and USB Hub. The hub gives us access to 3 USB sockets accessible on the right-hand side of the laptop for external joysticks, game controllers and any other USB device that may work on the Spectrum Next!
Having sent the designs of to Shapeways and received the 3D prints back I assembled the parts and here it is:
Due to changes to the Spectrum Next firmware the 8" LCD screen is no longer displaying a reliable image. It seems the HDMI timings were tweaked in order to satisfy big screen TV's however these adjustments have affected a lot of small LCD panels. I am looking at other screens and will update the laptop in the future. I will also be looking into making a handheld Spectrum Next too!
Below are the files for those interested, though please note that this is very much incomplete and will need refining for better keyboard placement and the screen will need changing.
The idea of a Spectrum Next laptop has recently been revisited with version 2 of the design: