Adventurer #14
30 июня 2003

Reviews - ZX Spectrum 2002 year Hardware Review.

<b>Reviews</b> - ZX Spectrum 2002 year Hardware Review.
Hardware Review         

Almost every zine (periodical or
not) on Speccy reckons its duty to
review the new software. But I've
never seen a hardware review
(except articles about Spectrum
modifications). That's why I've de-
cided to make such review in Adven-

Technological progress looks for-
ward: the silicon valley giants
are working at 65 nanometers pro-
cess for their 3... GHz pentiums,
athlons and so on with core volta-
ge lesser than 1 Volt, but we are
still on 5V, 3,5/7 MHz... It seems
that we hopelessly missed that
progress (and maybe it's better
for us).

Today, there are only 2 manufactu-
rers of spectrum-compatible
machines in Russia: Peters+ and
Nemo. Well-known in a distant pass
Scorpion  doesn't  develop
spectrum hardware anymore, it just
sells out their remains.


In 1997 caused a sensation with
their latest work - Sprinter. By
developing a computer with fle-
xible (uploading) architecture ba-
sed on "Altera" they prepared for
the world domination among other
spectrum-compatible  products.
Though Sprinter has a plenty of ad-
vantages such as few video modes,
hdd and mouse it didn't conquer
the market due to the bad AY emula-
tion or maybe just because of con-
cervative consumers... Perhaps,
the price for this hardware is too
high -115$ for motherboard and
170$ for assembled computer with
mouse and keyboard. Also there is
no information from Sprinter users
that somehow can reveal the advan-
tages and disadvantages of using
this machine.

Sprinter obtained nothing new in
architecture during last few
years, only some elements were rep-
laced with their new analogues.

Peters+ is developing a new model
now, they say that every single
machine is handmade and subjected
to the following tune up. Cur-
rently, this manufacture aimed at
the eastern consumers, and even
Peters+ official site had no rus-
sian version until recent time.



His creation - "Kay 1024" 7MHz is
the "last hope of user", because
it's impossible to buy something
different due to the another pro-
duction's absence (except secon-
dhand machines). "Kay 1024" has
a lot of advantages and a one big
drawback -unswitchable turbo mode.
So, the programms (games and
demos), written for Pentagon 3,5
MHz work incorrectly.

The only possible contact with Ne-
mo is snail mail. It lets Nemo to
be too late with the answers and
brings a lot of upsets to the cus-
tomers and sometimes make them
avoid of such deals. By publishing
his "deep thoughts" in mass media,
Nemo showed everybody his own
philosophy, and according to this
he tries to promote "the most prog-
ressive machine". At the same time
he ignores the modern means of
communication leaving himself loc-
ked up in the Stone Age.

If he had an email, perhaps he co-
uld have stopped complaining about
the "money earning difficuilty" on

I want to say some words about the
project from the city of Li-
cichansk, Ukraine. It is a Penta-
gon 1024 motherboard with all cur-
rently available modifications. As
I know, this motherboard exists in
a single copy and is very
unstable. It would be very hard
for an ordinary consumer to use
this product even having the detai-
led schematics and the maintenance

The dimensions of this mother-
board: 25x40 cm. It consists just
a little more than 100 pieces of
logic and fits only a big tower pc
case. This fact means that this
project is unprofessional, compa-
ring with original Pentagon mother-
board with its dimensions 31x13,5
and 100 pieces of logic.

During 2002 there was nothing new
in interenet about this project,
and it is possible to make a
conclusion that the project is
stopped and development is can-
celled. So, you can forget about
acquiring this motherboard.

There are yet many talanted people
on Spectrum aboard. Delighted with
the nearest past, they are also
trying to develop their hardware.
Currently, there are few various
projects but the most deserving of
being reveiwed here are:

ZX Spectrum SE (Germany, crea-
tor -Andrew Owen)

ZX Spectrum +3e (Spain, Harry

Sparky eZX (USA, Richard Kelsh)

While reading about these projects
I've made a conclusion that even
their creators live in different
countries they are joined together
in their desire to make their com-
puters compatible with each other,
when Russians are not. For
example, Nemo directs his Kay
towards Is-Dos, Peters+ made so-
mething totally new and not compa-
tible with any other OS for their
Sprinter. Even for Pentagon much
more operating systems were crea-
ted also not compatible with each
other. It seems that every OS deve-
loper imagine himself a genius and
don't concern about others, questi-
oning himself lately, why his ope-
rating system wasn't accepted by
the masses.

All following computers can work
under "Extended Basic", which is
currently is being developed.

So, ZX Spectrum SE. The first in-
formation appeared in 1999 and now
this project is finished comple-
tely, the first example of this
machine was made already, though
its specification differs from
what was in the beginning of the
development. The prototype is a
portugal Timex TC2048, strongly
changed by Jarek Adamski, who
developed and realized all modifi-
cations. Models of Timex TC2048,
TS/TC2068 and UK2086 can be ea-
sily modificated to ZX Spectrum
SE. It is possible to gain the
most of the functional possibili-
ties of ZX Spectrum SE, except ad-
ditional RAM and video modes of
Timex, on the other models mentio-
ned above.

Specifications: extended video
mode 512x192, TR-DOS emulation,
280 Kb ROM + 27 Kb Video ROM, IDE
HDD is coming soon, 3.528 MHz pro-
cessor with 70512 tacts per int
against Pentagon with 3,5 MHz and
71680 tacts. Int frequency is
50.04 Hz, Pentagon - 48 Hz. Never-
theless, these parameters don't al-
low to emulate Pentagon, so rus-
sian soft wont work correctly.

Somebody can argue - why does he
compare everything with Pen-
tagon? The reason is very simple
Pentagon 128 with 3,5 MHz is the
ex-USSR standard machine de facto,
and all soft is being made for it.


ZX Spectrum +3e

ZX Spectrum +3e is an extended
configuration of Sinclair ZX
Spectrum +3, which was built by
Amstrad in the end of 80ies. All
improvement is reduced to the rep-
lacement of the old ROM with the
new one which has the old mistakes
corrected and also some Basic +3
commands added. One of the most im-
portant features of the new ROM is
IDE drive support. So, it's so-
mething like non-turbo Scorpion
ZS-256, solely the amount of vir-
tual diskettes is 65536. Communica-
tion with HDD uses 1 byte, that's
why only half of disk space can be
used. These diskettes may have the
maximum size in 16 Mb, but they
can't be TR-DOS disks due to the
TR-DOS absence in ROM.


Next project - Sparky eZX

It is based on the 8-bit processor
eZ80 50 MHz. As the developer
says, this system was built for ex-
periments and entertaining. Becau-
se processor is manufactured only
in a VQFP case, which couldn't be
moulded to a motherboard (i have
some doubts on this statement),
the developer refused to built a
motherboard at all. It will be rep-
laced by "ZiLOG eZ80 evaluation
board", which has the processor al-
ready mounted by Zilog. This board
is promoted by its producer as a
complete internet web-server.

Currently, the full specification
isn't available, there is only so-
me information about this product:
16 Mb ROM, keyboard and modem can
be attached directly to processor
thru RS232 port. The original ver-
sion of programmable "Extended
Basic" is being written now, it
will use all 16Mb of memory.

This project is not finished, so
it is too early to talk about it.


Finally, I want to express my opi-
nion about these projects. A lot
of work was put into all of them,
but conformably to ex-USSR they
all have no perspectives. It is be-
cause of our TR-DOS and 3,5 MHz.
My vision of Spectrum in future -
in any modifications it must pro-
vide 100% correct work as a Penta-
gon 128, 3,5 MHz with TR-DOS
5.03. In any other way, machine
will be distanced from user and
forgotten, what already happened
with some of Spectrum compa-

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