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DistantStar001

Just Got a ZX Spectrum, and I have questions

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So I got this a few weeks ago, but the new keyboard membrane arrived today.  

 

image.thumb.png.2991f1ba1adf5bff8b12d30c2d0f1fa6.png

 

I have already done a simple composite mod and hooked it up to my Apple Color Composite Monitor (//c style if that matters), adjusted the vertical hold, so the image is stable.  I still haven't loaded any games yet, so I don't know if the color will work on an American monitor or not.

 

So down to the questions.

 

First, Aside from the composite mod and a better power supply (currently using one from a model 1 Genesis), are there any other hardware or modifications that I'll need this side of the Atlantic?

 

Second, what add-ons/upgrades should I be looking into?  This is a 48k model, that near as I can tell is fully functional.  But I'm open to suggestions, ie: flash storage, joystick adapters, etc.  

 

Third, are there any floppy solutions for this?  I'm kinda doubting this, and outside of the +3, I haven't found any myself, but it never hurts to ask.

 

Now the for fun stuff!  What games should I be looking for?  And where do I find them?  What are the best archives?  And if they are cassette based, what tools will I need to convert them to wave?  Or is there an app that will play was/tap/whatever directly from my tablet (ie: TapDancer a la Android)?

 

Thanks again in advance.  And as usual, any help or advice is appreciated. 🙂

 

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Add-ons: Perhaps the latest version of DivIDE which I believe comes with a built-in joystick interface. There are a number of other IDE or memory card based solutions too, so you're far from limited to one choice. Some kind of joystick interface definitely is recommended in the long run.

 

Regarding floppy drives, the short answer is No. There were a few 3rd party interfaces for using a 5.25" floppy drive but those were margin products and obviously no software was distributed as such. The Speccy was based on tape, microdrive, eventually 3" disks on the +3 and a handful ROM modules which you use together with Interface 2 but is more of a collector's item than practically useful today. Joystick interfaces are plenty.

 

You can find most ZX Spectrum software at World of Spectrum. Here is also a top 100 list. Note that the files offered by this site are obtained through licenses with original publishers, and they actively avoid posting files from publishers who denied distribution. Those you can find elsewhere...

 

WoS also has various utilities for converting TAP/TZX to other formats, though if you get a memory card based solution you don't need WAV. For hardware, I think the CASduino supports the ZX Spectrum, and the TapDancer might very well also do it, though I haven't checked.

 

Also in order to check if you can display colours, it is fairly easy to from BASIC use the following commands with a digit in the range 0-7:


Border: BORDER (just press B)
Text: INK (Caps Shift + Symbol Shift to get the E cursor, then either shift button + X)

Background: PAPER (Caps Shift + Symbol Shift, then either shift button + C)

Edited by carlsson

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Other than a proper power supply and an on/off inline power switch:

 

https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/shop/sinclair/sinclairpsu.html

https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/shop/sinclair/inline-power-switch.html

 

A DIVMMC Future is all you will need to run all of the software and use any 9-pin joystick you want:

 

https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/divmmcfuture

 

 

As for video, it is PAL, so no, you will not get color out of it unless you use some type of adapter. I used the RetroTink which supports PAL signals in color to HDMI provided your TV supports 50Hz (my cheap Polaroid flat screen does):

 

https://www.retrotink.com/product-page/retrotink-2x

 

Or a Koryuu (which I also use...it is great) for component out to an OSSC or a TV (same 50Hz rule applies):

 

https://videogameperfection.com/products/koryuu-transcoder/

 

 

As for games, you can find everything you would ever want for the Spectrum in the TOSEC sets (google)

 

 

 

Edited by eightbit

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I recommend getting the +3 model instead, with a proper keyboard and able to play both 3 inch floppies and cassettes.

 

Then, I would get the HxC floppy emulator and use an SD card to load hundreds of games: http://hxc2001.free.fr/floppy_drive_emulator/

 

As for the games, try Saboteur, Matchday 2 and Head over Heels.

Edited by IntelliMission

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Well as the ZX Spectrum was a British computer, you would be advised to get a Datasette / Tape Player

as most of the games are on nice affordable Tape.

The best games on the Spectrum ? Um, Head Over Heels, The Dizzy Games, Midnight Resistance, R-Type, Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy, Chuckie Egg, Rainbow Islands and Boulder Dash are some really great games to start with.

 

+ on the 'roms' front game images you can usually find well packed DVD archives on ebay for a few quid. These usually have thousands of games on in A-Z folder order.

Edited by Guest
+ 'roms'

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On 4/17/2020 at 4:36 PM, carlsson said:

Add-ons: Perhaps the latest version of DivIDE which I believe comes with a built-in joystick interface. There are a number of other IDE or memory card based solutions too, so you're far from limited to one choice. Some kind of joystick interface definitely is recommended in the long run.

 

I can't recommend DivIDE as a reliable solution.  I used one with a +2a a few years ago and it was about 20% compatible at best and many files would work fine for a while and then just crap out.

 

In fact, the +2a sucked as well.  The best thing about it was the RGB-Scart support that gave a fantastic picture but that was offset by the high failure rate of the power supply (went through at least two) and tape game compatibility was practically a lottery - in the end, I gave up and stuck to emulation for the Speccy (which is the only time I've done that with a system).

 

 

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Here's a nice advanced search from World of Spectrum: I have selected all games with a user score of 8 or higher that didn't appear for the C64.

 

The list includes two classic Spanish games, Sir Fred and La abadía del crimen, as well as some isometric classics such as Batman or Where Time Stood Still.

Edited by IntelliMission
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It appears some people abused the score system (now closed for this reason) and a few shitty games appear on the list when you sort by score.

 

Sadly, the advanced search only allows to filter games with 5 or more votes, because 100 or more votes would have solved the problem.

 

Fortunately, I found a workaround for this, even if it's not perfect: adding the filter "release country: Spain", none of these "fake masterepieces" appear anymore, because you mostly see titles that were released both in the UK and in Spain and none of them are minor.

Edited by IntelliMission
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On 4/18/2020 at 12:30 AM, eightbit said:

 

 

A DIVMMC Future is all you will need to run all of the software and use any 9-pin joystick you want:

 

https://www.thefuturewas8bit.com/divmmcfuture

 

 

 

 

 

 

As @eightbit said, a DIVMMC Future is a great option, I use that with my Spectrum+2. It's pretty much plug and play with any ZX spectrum.

 

For video you are a bit more limited with the 48k model as out of the box it had RF and that was it. You could do composite mods and Later models added RGB out.

 

That said, a simple solution for you could be the ZXHD from ByteDelight in the Netherlands. 

 

I picked up a ZXHD from ByteDelight a few months ago and I think it's brilliant.  It works with any ZX spectrum from 16kb to 128KB +3 models and reads the video ram and outputs to HDMI. you can also daisy chain a DIVMMC future out the back of it. 

 

Attached a picture of my ZXHD + DIVMMC Future to give you an idea of the scale.

 

 

IMG_1638.jpg

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Hi all,

 

Sorry it takes me so long to get back to this, And thank you all for all the responses.

 

To begin...

On 4/17/2020 at 8:36 AM, carlsson said:

You can find most ZX Spectrum software at World of Spectrum. Here is also a top 100 list. Note that the files offered by this site are obtained through licenses with original publishers, and they actively avoid posting files from publishers who denied distribution. Those you can find elsewhere...

Thanks for this!  I've finally had some time to go through most of these last night and found quite a few fun treasures!

 

On 4/17/2020 at 8:36 AM, carlsson said:

WoS also has various utilities for converting TAP/TZX to other formats, though if you get a memory card based solution you don't need WAV. For hardware, I think the CASduino supports the ZX Spectrum, and the TapDancer might very well also do it, though I haven't checked.

TapDancer does work, but my Spectrum appears to be a little hard of hearing, so I had to rout the signal through a set of speakers to boost the volume from my tablet and use a cable that joined the stereo signal to mono.

 

 

So lets see if I get this next part right...

On 4/17/2020 at 8:36 AM, carlsson said:

Perhaps the latest version of DivIDE which I believe comes with a built-in joystick interface.

Vote: DivIDE

On 4/17/2020 at 4:30 PM, eightbit said:

A DIVMMC Future is all you will need to run all of the software and use any 9-pin joystick you want

Vote: DIVMMC

On 4/20/2020 at 3:04 AM, English Invader said:

I gave up and stuck to emulation for the Speccy

Vote: Give up and go emulation! 🙂 

On 4/20/2020 at 12:05 AM, IntelliMission said:

I recommend getting the +3 model instead, with a proper keyboard and able to play both 3 inch floppies and cassettes.

Vote: Scrap it all and get a better Spectrum! 🙂 

On 4/20/2020 at 2:11 AM, ∞ Vince ∞ said:

Well as the ZX Spectrum was a British computer, you would be advised to get a Datasette / Tape Player

Vote: Original hardware (respect for that!)

On 4/20/2020 at 3:04 AM, English Invader said:

I can't recommend DivIDE as a reliable solution.  I used one with a +2a a few years ago and it was about 20% compatible at best and many files would work fine for a while and then just crap out.

Vote: No DivIDE

On 4/21/2020 at 8:36 AM, Muddyfunster said:

As @eightbit said, a DIVMMC Future is a great option, I use that with my Spectrum+2. It's pretty much plug and play with any ZX spectrum.

Vote: DIVMMC

So the winners seem to be: DIVMMC or get something better? 

 

All joking aside, I did try emulation on a retro pie, but could never get the hang of it.  The Spectrum keyboard is just so far off the standard that it was driving me nuts (heck, even Commodore emulators bug me for this reason).  

 

I have looked at the Spectrum 3+ and have placed several bids, but so far they've been going for more than I can afford at the moment.  I'm still interested, but I have to admit that the 3 inch disks are a bit off putting for me.  They seem to have been an Amstrad thing that never caught on in the US.  So I'm not sure if I'll be able to find a reliable source this side of the Atlantic.

 

As for a datasette, I've been looking for a good one that's also affordable for some time now.  I did manage to get a Texas Instruments Program Recorder, but for some reason there's a lot of static on the playback so I've never been able to load a program with it (on any of my computers).  The strange thing is that the static doesn't seem to be an issue on recording as every tape I made for my C64 or VIC-20 works perfectly in my Commodore Datasette?  Not sure what's going on with that, but it's not unless, and my eyes are always open for a better one.

 

Of the SD solutions, I have to admit that the DIVMMC seems to be the best solution, but I'll probably look for a standalone joystick adapter as well (if only for 2 player games).

 

On 4/17/2020 at 4:30 PM, eightbit said:

As for video, it is PAL, so no, you will not get color out of it unless you use some type of adapter. I used the RetroTink which supports PAL signals in color to HDMI provided your TV supports 50Hz 

 

Or a Koryuu (which I also use...it is great) for component out to an OSSC or a TV (same 50Hz rule applies)

Unfortunately, I don't think I have a compatible screen for these.  Honestly, I don't even have one with HDMI.

On 4/21/2020 at 8:36 AM, Muddyfunster said:

I picked up a ZXHD from ByteDelight a few months ago and I think it's brilliant

I've looked into these (obviously my HDMI issues still apply so I haven't gotten one yet)  My understanding is that they make use of a Raspberry Pie 0 for the HDMI output, but no file server?  I just think that that's a capability it should have had.  Maybe it's just me.

 

I was thinking of a composite PAL to NTSC converter?  Any recommendations?

 

On 4/20/2020 at 12:05 AM, IntelliMission said:

Then, I would get the HxC floppy emulator and use an SD card to load hundreds of games

I'm actually looking into one of these for my TRS-80!  I understand it might even work for my Ti-99 as well?  If I ever get that 3+, it would be a great little addition for that as well!

 

In any case, thanks again for all the responses!  Any additional advice is always welcome.  And when I have new questions I'll be sure to ask here!

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On 5/2/2020 at 11:56 AM, DistantStar001 said:

Hi all,

 

Sorry it takes me so long to get back to this, And thank you all for all the responses.

 

To begin...

Thanks for this!  I've finally had some time to go through most of these last night and found quite a few fun treasures!

 

TapDancer does work, but my Spectrum appears to be a little hard of hearing, so I had to rout the signal through a set of speakers to boost the volume from my tablet and use a cable that joined the stereo signal to mono.

 

 

So lets see if I get this next part right...

Vote: DivIDE

Vote: DIVMMC

Vote: Give up and go emulation! 🙂 

Vote: Scrap it all and get a better Spectrum! 🙂 

Vote: Original hardware (respect for that!)

Vote: No DivIDE

Vote: DIVMMC

So the winners seem to be: DIVMMC or get something better? 

 

All joking aside, I did try emulation on a retro pie, but could never get the hang of it.  The Spectrum keyboard is just so far off the standard that it was driving me nuts (heck, even Commodore emulators bug me for this reason).  

 

I have looked at the Spectrum 3+ and have placed several bids, but so far they've been going for more than I can afford at the moment.  I'm still interested, but I have to admit that the 3 inch disks are a bit off putting for me.  They seem to have been an Amstrad thing that never caught on in the US.  So I'm not sure if I'll be able to find a reliable source this side of the Atlantic.

 

As for a datasette, I've been looking for a good one that's also affordable for some time now.  I did manage to get a Texas Instruments Program Recorder, but for some reason there's a lot of static on the playback so I've never been able to load a program with it (on any of my computers).  The strange thing is that the static doesn't seem to be an issue on recording as every tape I made for my C64 or VIC-20 works perfectly in my Commodore Datasette?  Not sure what's going on with that, but it's not unless, and my eyes are always open for a better one.

 

Of the SD solutions, I have to admit that the DIVMMC seems to be the best solution, but I'll probably look for a standalone joystick adapter as well (if only for 2 player games).

 

Unfortunately, I don't think I have a compatible screen for these.  Honestly, I don't even have one with HDMI.

I've looked into these (obviously my HDMI issues still apply so I haven't gotten one yet)  My understanding is that they make use of a Raspberry Pie 0 for the HDMI output, but no file server?  I just think that that's a capability it should have had.  Maybe it's just me.

 

I was thinking of a composite PAL to NTSC converter?  Any recommendations?

 

I'm actually looking into one of these for my TRS-80!  I understand it might even work for my Ti-99 as well?  If I ever get that 3+, it would be a great little addition for that as well!

 

In any case, thanks again for all the responses!  Any additional advice is always welcome.  And when I have new questions I'll be sure to ask here!

Get yourself a "shoe-box" style tape recorder. They were pretty common and popular in the 70s and early 80s.  They are usually mono and can run off of batteries, usually 4 C cell batteries.  If you get a decent one, they were very well built and can be had dirt cheap today. Most of them were mono too. You can record to the tape from the PC and then load the game in from the tape.  Also, these older units have a lot larger output. Most "modern" tape players and certainly MP3 players probably won't get loud enough, or if they do, will have so much distortion at the louder volume that it won't work.

 

Something like this:

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Panasonic-RQ-2102-portable-cassette-player-recorder-complete-A-C-adapter-L-K/124172921706?hash=item1ce9486b6a:g:~noAAOSwnQ5ej5zg

 

I use my Cuttle Cart with an iPod and an old RCA CD Walkman that can also play MP3 from the CD. The Cuttle cart has a mono lead on it, but I have not had any problem with any sound source I have hooked to it.

 

Have you had problems with the PAL stuff?  I've wanted to pick up a speccy but I have been told British computers are a nightmare because of the PAL thing.  Have you tried hooking it to an NTSC TV through the composite or are you just using the 1084 (which, I think, natively supports PAL)? 

I have a couple of Amiga monitors, but I really want to play games on my 19" CRT TV.  Those Amiga monitors are small as hell. Like 12" or 13"

 

Edited by christo930
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2 hours ago, christo930 said:

Have you had problems with the PAL stuff? 

Interestingly enough, yes and no.  

2 hours ago, christo930 said:

Have you tried hooking it to an NTSC TV through the composite

I did try hooking to a NTSC CRT TV through composite.  There was no color and the image strobed upwards (probably due to the 50 hz signal).  Then I tried an Apple II Color Composite Monitor (//c version), and adjusted the vertical hold.  There was still no color, but the image was stable.  I also tried a green phosphor Apple Monitor ///.  And after adjusting the vertical hold, that worked too.  The last screen I tried was a modern RCA LED TV with composite input.  That displayed without a problem and in full color!  Too bad the RCA is faulty, and needs to be power cycled just to get it to turn on (and even then it's 50/50).  

 

Overall, if you have a more modern display (LCD/LED) with composite input, then you shouldn't have a problem.  If you don't mind going without color then an NTSC CRT will work if it had the appropriate vertical hold adjustment options.  It might be possible to convert a NTSC to PAL, but I believe that there are composite converter boxes that can work as well.  I'm still looking into those.

 

2 hours ago, christo930 said:

Get yourself a "shoe-box" style tape recorder. They were pretty common and popular in the 70s and early 80s.  They are usually mono and can run off of batteries, usually 4 C cell batteries.

Isn't that what my TI Program recorder is?  I know it can run off 4 Cs.  I don't know.  Right now I'm looking for a RadioShack one for my TRS-80 Model III and CoCos.  I've heard good things about them, so hopefully that will work for my Speccy as well.  

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An older tape recorder is great if you have a stash of tapes to playback. If you're downloading games from the Internet, I do think one of the modern memory card based solutions - perhaps DIVMMC after all - is a better and easier bet. But it all boils down to how much money you're willing to invest, how much you expect to use the ZX Spectrum. If you'll bring it out twice a year, perhaps converting TAP to WAV and record some of your favorite games to tape is good enough.

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9 hours ago, carlsson said:

An older tape recorder is great if you have a stash of tapes to playback.

I do, actually!  Mostly I've been using them for my Commodore machines, since the Datasette I have for them is the older model and doesn't play very well with cassette adapters (won't work without the top tray/cover, and eventually wears out the cable without it).  Also it's nice not to have to navigate file the menus on my tablet or Pie1541 (such a tiny screen).  Still, I do plan to get some sort of SD solution eventually, since it gives me a chance to preview software before committing it to older magnetic media.  Emulators can work too, but I've found that some software that works in emulation doesn't always play so well on original hardware.

 

The DIVMMC looks great!  But it is also slightly more than my Spectrum.  I'll probably go with it eventually, but for now, I still have several other machines in need of repair first (my poor Mac Classic has been sitting with bad capacitors for years now, and I just managed to find the solid-state replacement kits I needed.  My LC's getting a much needed recap too 🙂).  Besides, and I might be crazy for saying this, but it's fun loading things from tape!  

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16 hours ago, DistantStar001 said:

Interestingly enough, yes and no.  

I did try hooking to a NTSC CRT TV through composite.  There was no color and the image strobed upwards (probably due to the 50 hz signal).  Then I tried an Apple II Color Composite Monitor (//c version), and adjusted the vertical hold.  There was still no color, but the image was stable.  I also tried a green phosphor Apple Monitor ///.  And after adjusting the vertical hold, that worked too.  The last screen I tried was a modern RCA LED TV with composite input.  That displayed without a problem and in full color!  Too bad the RCA is faulty, and needs to be power cycled just to get it to turn on (and even then it's 50/50).  

 

Overall, if you have a more modern display (LCD/LED) with composite input, then you shouldn't have a problem.  If you don't mind going without color then an NTSC CRT will work if it had the appropriate vertical hold adjustment options.  It might be possible to convert a NTSC to PAL, but I believe that there are composite converter boxes that can work as well.  I'm still looking into those.

 

Isn't that what my TI Program recorder is?  I know it can run off 4 Cs.  I don't know.  Right now I'm looking for a RadioShack one for my TRS-80 Model III and CoCos.  I've heard good things about them, so hopefully that will work for my Speccy as well.  

 

It sounds like it's a dirty volume pot.  This is very common problem with old radios and tape players.  Try cleaning the volume pot by spraying some electronics cleaner into it and then turning the volume wheel rapidly up and down.  The fact that it is not affecting recording tends to make it even more likely.  Once you get that problem solved, it should work.

 

If you have any music cassettes, try playing one of them and turning the volume as it is playing.  Usually the static will vary at least a little with the volume pot as it is being raised/lowered.

 

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21 hours ago, christo930 said:

It sounds like it's a dirty volume pot.  This is very common problem with old radios and tape players.  Try cleaning the volume pot by spraying some electronics cleaner into it and then turning the volume wheel rapidly up and down.  The fact that it is not affecting recording tends to make it even more likely.  Once you get that problem solved, it should work.

 

If you have any music cassettes, try playing one of them and turning the volume as it is playing.  Usually the static will vary at least a little with the volume pot as it is being raised/lowered.

I feel like this is rapidly morphing into an unrelated topic, but I did as you suggested and I did see a marked improvement.  I tested it on my Coco and for the first time the computer recognized the file and attempted to load it.  The load still failed but at least it realized that there was something to load.  However, I've run into a new problem now.  The belt is worn out.  I mean really loose.  I'm surprised that it was able to record or play at all given how bad the belt is.  One moment it was fine and everything was spinning as normal, and the next it just stopped.  rewind seems to work fine, but play, fast forward, record, there is no forward motion on this thing (especially when there is a tape in it).  

 

Does anyone know what the part number or belt size is for the replacement?  To keep with the original topic, I promise I will make tapes and use this with my Spectrum. ;-)

 

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1 hour ago, DistantStar001 said:

I feel like this is rapidly morphing into an unrelated topic, but I did as you suggested and I did see a marked improvement.  I tested it on my Coco and for the first time the computer recognized the file and attempted to load it.  The load still failed but at least it realized that there was something to load.  However, I've run into a new problem now.  The belt is worn out.  I mean really loose.  I'm surprised that it was able to record or play at all given how bad the belt is.  One moment it was fine and everything was spinning as normal, and the next it just stopped.  rewind seems to work fine, but play, fast forward, record, there is no forward motion on this thing (especially when there is a tape in it).  

 

Does anyone know what the part number or belt size is for the replacement?  To keep with the original topic, I promise I will make tapes and use this with my Spectrum. ;-)

 

Just measure it and take note of the shape (cross section).  It's probably round or square.  Measure the length and approx the thickness.  You might have to order a bag of varied belts, but at least you'll have a bunch of different sizes for other machines you may want to fix.  But it is just as likely that you can find a pack of 1 or 2 belts of the proper size.

 

I would say it's still on topic.  After all, the end goal is to play Spectrum games.

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On 4/16/2020 at 10:25 PM, DistantStar001 said:

And if they are cassette based, what tools will I need to convert them to wave?  Or is there an app that will play was/tap/whatever directly from my tablet (ie: TapDancer a la Android)?

 

Thanks again in advance.  And as usual, any help or advice is appreciated. 🙂

 

I have had good luck using PlayZX available in the Android Play Store

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As far as converting them to a .wav file... you would just record the audio of the tape lol

Edited by DragonGrafx-16

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