A lot of people ask what use are retro computers in this modern age of super fast PCs with oodles of memory and storage capacity?
Well, as well as there being an active retro scene, with a lot of people wishing to relive their youth and pass on their technical expertise, one avenue that could perhaps be developed further is in the field of robotics. Modern PCs have less and less control over their native hardware, with Microsoft actually removing some low level access from each version of Windows. This can make it very difficult to write software which can communicate effectively with a piece of custom built hardware, such as a robot, or even an old printer.
Add an 8 or 16 bit computer into the equation, such as the Z80 based Sinclair ZX Spectrum, or the 680000 based Sinclair QL, and you have access to a wealth of information on how to access each port, open source operating systems, simple programming tools and active discussion forums where people are more than willing to provide you with the technical assistance you need.
So, what has been happening in each of your key markets over the past 12 months?
We are pleased to report that in the past 12 months, we have raised over £1500 for the Sinclair QL user group (Quanta) who will make these funds available for people needing to raise finance in order to pursue development opportunities for the QL. They will be glad to receive detailed proposals and certainly it would be nice to produce a low cost mass storage device, such as a compact flash reader.
The recent show in Birmingham was surprisingly well attended and it is hoped that this enthusiasm can continue. Quanta needs the support of its members and if its membership numbers continue to decline, then we may well see them being wound up and the funds which they hold being given away to Charity, rather than being used for the good of the QL community. Please therefore subscribe to Quanta and renew your subscriptions.
Unfortunately, the one downside for the QL, is the lack of a high quality peripheral to add more speed and memory to the original QL. The Super Gold Card sometimes makes an appearance on the second hand market (although it is as rare as hens' teeth) and it is no longer able to make new ones of these as some of the chips are now obsolete.
Sinclair ZX Spectrum
This has now become our main source of turnover, with replacement keyboard membranes remaining an ever popular (and necessary) item.
We were happy to be able to bring the DivIDE Plus hard disk interface to market in the past 12 months, although delays in manufacture and shipping problems have caused some frustration. These now appear to be behind us, although we still struggle to source certain parts, such as the through connectors and edge connectors. Feedback from customers once they have received this interface has been very positive, with only a few minor issues which people struggle with when they first use the card, pushing us to open our own Spectrum forum.
We have now been able to source replacement flexible connectors to join the ZX Microdrive and ZX Interface 1 units (hopefully we will soon be able to supply the hard connector to join two ZX Microdrive units).
2006/07 has also seen the launch of the ever popular Competition Pro Joystick for the Spectrum and other retro computers (which use the standard Atari joystick socket).
During 2007/08 we hope to build further on the success of the DivIDE Plus, and bring more new products to market, including the composite video kit and Kempston joystick interface with through connector, as well as improved firmware for the DivIDE Plus.
The main downfall of the ZX81 is the lack of replacement keyboard membranes. These are now failing in large numbers, but with a cost of around £10 to produce, it is unlikely that the market will ever be large enough to warrant a new production run. Kits are still sometimes available on the internet, although you do need to bear in mind that these are now 25+ years old.
Use our website for more information on Sinclair range of computers and available items