RETURN OF THE SPECCY ; Firm's ZX reboot has no strings attached [Sunday Mercury (England)]
(Sunday Mercury (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) MIDLAND boffins are battling to bring back the ZX Spectrum - one of Britain's first home computers - more than 30 years since it first sparked a high street sensation.
The little black console, with its rubbery keys, was first produced in 1982 and introduced the nation to armchair computer gaming, with software loaded from cassette tape.
Games such as Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner, with simple graphics, laid the foundations for the billion-pound games industry that we know today.
But as technology moved on, the Spectrum was surpassed and production ceased in 1990. The brand was finally discontinued two years later, much to the dismay of diehard fans.
Now, it could be on the way back - with a souped-up, state of the art version designed to work with today's phones, tablets and smart TVs.
The man behind the project is Steve Wilcox, boss of Elite Systems, a Lichfield company that first found fame back in the 1980s as a producer of games for the Spectrum.
"It was a fantastic British brand that still has a passionate following all round the world." says Steve, 53. "I got into the Spectrum when my kid brother designed a game for it . "He was still at school at the time! I then got into the business of making games for the device and for its big rival, the Commodore 64. And I've been in that business ever since.
"There's a huge demand for retro gaming fuelled by the nostalgia surrounding the early days, and we produce apps for mobile phones and tablets that enable you to play the old games.
"But then we thought 'Why not go one step further?' So we came up with the idea of a Spectrum for today's market." The new device will look and feel like the original but is, in fact, a bluetooth keyboard which will work initially with iOS and subsequently for Android and Windows phones and tablets, as well as for PCs and Macs.
It will connect wirelessly, for example, to an iPad and in turn to a TV via Apple Airplay where it can be used as a keypad and to play games.
"When used in conjunction with Bluetooth ZX Spectrum apps, it will provide authentic rubber-key play-control over a comprehensive catalogue of 100% original, officially licensed Spectrum games," adds Steve.
"Either at launch or sometime later, the device will also be 'backwardly compatible' with our existing ZX Spectrum apps."
After securing a licensing deal, Elite has named the new machine The Bluetooth ZX Spectrum. It is anticipated that the high street price will be somewhere between Pounds 39.99 and Pounds 49.99.
But first there is a hurdle to jump.
Steve estimates that the cost of the project will come in at Pounds 60,000 and has launched a crowd-funding appeal via the Kickstarter website. Within a fortnight, close on Pounds 18,000 has been pledged.
With 26 days to go before the target deadline, the Staffordshire business boss believes that his dream is within sight.
"We are looking at Pounds 30,000 to develop a pre-production model, and then we have to ensure that we can produce a minimum quantity to satisfy the anticipated initial demand," says Steve.
"We know the audience is out there because they are telling us they want the Spectrum back. We'd love to let such an iconic brand loose again."
For more information head to www.kickstarter.com and search for 'Bluetooth ZX Spectrum'.
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