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Jan. 21st, 2013 @ 12:09 am ZX Spectrum for Non-jillionaires!
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Spiketail Hatchling
Works have been keeping me busy for the last few months. A lot of personal drama has passed, too. Needless to say, things are finally setting back into a predictable rhythm... which means, it's project time. A professor told me to make blogs and things about projects when they came about-- and I've done that a lot in the past-- so, here we ago again!

The idea this time isn't a computer game: it's a computer itself. In the early 80's, there existed the ZX Spectrum. It was more-or-less the British equivalent of the Commodore 64. It was cheap, and lots and lots of software was written for it. Fortunately for those of us living in the 21st century, lots and lots of games are presently available online. It's a magical world of games with eight colors, flaky graphics, and infinite fun.

Anyway, the original Spectrums are becoming hard to find on E-Bay, or are in dubious condition... anyway, there are numerous emulators for them. So, with the advent of computers on chips (like the hobbyist's Arudino, but a little more sophisticated... it's called an 'SBC'- single-board computer). I found one recently called "Olinuxino." The name makes me cringe a bit, but if it can do what it promises, I don't really care. You can run a linux system from it. I figure if you load a bare linux/X11 system with a minimal window manager that launches a custom emulator launch tool, you're in business! Just mount it inside a bulky keyboard and you've got yourself a system. Here are the steps that I intend to follow:

A: Purchase the following:
(1) Bulky/cheap USB keyboard ($20?)
(2) XLinuxino Micro (IMX233-OLINUXINO-MICRO) ($40 <-- this is the expensive part)
(3) XLinuxino serial cable ($10)
(4) XLinuxino SD card with Linux ($16 <-- Optional. Could just get a regular SD card, but then I'd have to get an SD reader/writer for $10)
(5) Power supply ($10 from Jameco)
(6) RCA television connector ($3)
(7) Double-sided mounting tape (?)

B: Setup the linux
Not sure how this is going to work, but presumably I can get a terminal on the board through the serial cable. This is going to be a potential pitfall. It's going to require the spectrum emulator to be loaded onboard and compiled and some games loaded. Also, the UI will have to be written and launched on machine startup. Login will have to bypassed. There are a lot of little polishy things that will get smoothed over here.

C: Set up the hardware
Ideally, this is going to be fun. I'd like to open up the keyboard and mount the SBC on the bottom. Chop the computerbound cable inside the keyboard. Plug the USB-end into the SBC and leave just enough wire to reconnect it to the dangling leads. Now, there's going to be a hole in the keyboard where the wire used to go. Use this for the RCA jack. Depending on how the keyboard is constructed and how much wiggle-room is inside, this could be another nasty snarl-up point. Lastly, one will have to drill a hole for the power cord and power-button of the SBC. This might also take a little ingenuity to connect the power button to something. It'll depend on the shape and size of the keyboard.

When it's done, it'll look like a regular keyboard with a video cable dangling from it. There'll be a hole on the side/back with the power lead poking through. The power supply looks a little like a phone charger. I don't know how the power button is going to work yet, but if I need to put a button in near the status lights at the top, that wouldn't be terrible.

My first try is probably going to result in a few mess-ups... but I could make a few of these and perhaps sell them. Making sexy cloth carrying cases might also prove useful.

Anyway, it's late and I'm sleepy!
-Mark