ZX Spectrum Angst.

A place to chat about anything else, not already covered!
It might be advisable to avoid religion & politics though!

Moderators: David A Harvey, Pags

Spudgun
Posts: 3425
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Spudgun » Sat Sep 26, 2015 6:10 pm

It's been a long, but productive day. Another package arrived containing Codemaster cassettes. These were the games I was most anxious to get my hands on. They were the popular Dizzy games. I had bought 5 cassettes for under £10. Each cassette still had the original price tag on them. £2.99. I've mentioned before that some Ebay sellers were selling games for a lot more, because the games aren't available from World of Spectrum. As far as I'm concerned. I've done well. In a strange twist. 2 games are currently being advertised on Ebay for £50 each, because World of Spectrum doesn't hold a copy full stop! Moving swiftly along.....

I only needed 1 game to load. As long as the Dizzy games were represented at the Con, it didn't matter which one. Would you believe that all 5 loaded. In the end, I selected 2 games for inclusion. The first was Fantasy Island Dizzy. Although the gameplay is similar to all of the puzzle related Dizzy games. Fantasy Island Dizzy had the best sound. IE: It actually had some. I'll talk about sound in a bit. The other game was Fast Food. It's a typical Pac-Man style game. It just happens to feature the character Dizzy. Now, back to the sound.

In order to create the maximum opportunity for sales, Spectrum games are put together in a specific manner. The games have to run on a 48K Speccy first and the 128K Speccy second. The fundamental difference between the two machines (besides the memory) is the sound. The 48K Speccy uses an on-board, single channel speaker. The 128K Speccy uses a 3-channel sound chip that pumps the sound into the speaker in the TV set. So, how is it all done?

Games load as blocks of data. Let's say that there are two blocks. The first block is for the 48K Speccy. The second is for the 128K Speccy. If you're loading a 48K machine. The first block will load and then the game runs. If the Speccy is a 128K, then the game is in the 48K block, but the 128K sound is in the second block of data. Neat eh? So what's the upshot? I'll use Fantasy Island Dizzy as an example.

In 48K mode, the sound is limited to spot effects. It's all bleeps and buzzes. In 128K mode, there is additional background music. I did test the Pub Quiz Simulator as well. Although there isn't any background music. There are fanfares for getting questions right, etc.

I would like to remind everyone that I'm bringing the 48K 'rubber key' Speccy to the Con this year. So having games that have as much sound as they can is better than having games that are completely mute (Although I am bringing one mute game; Star Wars. I have mentioned this previously). Having said this. It gets pretty noisy in the Games/Dealers Room. I doubt if you'll be able to hear anything anyway.

For those who are interested. Games are still being written for the Speccy. Although these games are not written by commercial concerns. There's a strong fan base who write some very competent stuff. I will be including one game that was released this year! I'll annotate it as such in the accompanying Guide that will go with the Speccy.

There is still much to do and I've only got 8 weeks to do it in!
Frau Nydor is watching YOU!

Spudgun
Posts: 3425
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Spudgun » Sat Sep 26, 2015 8:09 pm

Additional...

One thing I forgot to mention is: The above 128K tests were done on a clapped out, hanging on by its fingernails +2B. Even if I was asked to bring it along to the Con. I couldn't get it ready in time as it would need some major electronic surgery to get it up to scratch.
Frau Nydor is watching YOU!

Spudgun
Posts: 3425
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Spudgun » Sun Sep 27, 2015 11:06 am

Right. This isn't an update. It's more of an aside than anything else.

I mentioned that my 128K Speccy would need some major electronic surgery to get it up to spec. Now, what did I mean by that. Read on......

There are a number of different 128K Speccys. There's the 'Toastrack' (That was the first one). The grey +2. The black +2A and the +2B and finally, the +3. Each and every one have differences. The 'Toastrack' isn't a problem as it was actually produced by Sinclair. The other were produced by Amstrad. Anyone with half a brain would recognise the name. Amstrad = Alan Sugar. Alan Sugar was the master of cheap! Anything that had the name Amstrad on it was produced as cheaply as possible. The 128K Speccy wasn't immune from this process.

If anyone remembers the Amstrad Hi-Fi in the late 80's would know that they came in a fantastic looking case. They looked the biz. However. If you looked inside the casing. It was almost empty! There was a simple circuit board screwed where it was needed. In the case of the 128K Speccy. It was a fantastic case, featuring a proper keyboard and a tape deck. On the inside, the circuit board suffered a reduced chip count. Over the years. The chips became fewer. This lead to compatibility problems. Some games that worked on the 'Toastrack' wouldn't work on the +2A. Amstrad had mucked about with the operating ROM. This problem can be worked around. One problem that can't (without surgery) are the joystick ports.

The +2 was the first 128K Speccy to feature built in ports. However, the wiring was different to the original Sinclair (Interface 2) joystick adapter. Up was now down. Down was now up. Amstrad sold its own joysticks (The SJS1) to get around the problem. However, the SJS1 was a pile of poo. The solution: Buy an adapter to correct the fault and continue to use your own joystick. Or rewire your own joystick to suit the mucked up porting on the Speccy.

I have a +2B. The ports are even worse! Most of the joystick doesn't even work! The +2B is screwed up so badly, that plugging in a joystick adapter in the back doesn't help. This is where the surgery is needed.

Some would say that rewiring the joystick would solve the problem. Yes that's true if, I say again IF each of the 9 sockets in the joystick plug had a wire going to it. Most don't (It's a cost cutting measure). The other option is to cut the tracks on the circuit board and solder in jumper wires. This is something I'm not keen on.

Thankfully. I've all the time in the world to fix this. I'll worry about it later.
Frau Nydor is watching YOU!

Spudgun
Posts: 3425
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Spudgun » Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:49 pm

Update.

You would not believe the faff I went through to get a game onto the SD card. The game is question is the classic 80's coin-op Zaxxon. I mentioned previously that the tape I had wouldn't load. I also mentioned that the TAP file from World of Spectrum wouldn't work. As a result, I added the unlicensed knock-off Zaxxan to the coin-op folder. I was never happy with Zaxxan. Yes, it's colourful, but it's clunky. Zaxxon, on the other hand, uses fewer colours, but the scrolling is a little smoother and the sprites are bigger. So, how did I do it?

World of Spectrum prefers TZX files. These files are perfect copies of the original cassette. That doesn't mean a TZX file is a WAV or an MP3. It means that a game has been fed into an emulator from a cassette. All of the defects are removed and then it's spat out as a digital copy. So a TZX file is a digital master copy. Now. I mentioned before that my DivMMC can't handle TZX files. So how did I load a TZX file onto my Speccy?

As I've mentioned above. A TZX file is a perfect digital copy. I downloaded a TZX player onto my PC. The I connected the Speccy to the PC via the external speaker socket. In essence, I had turned my PC into a cassette player! It worked. Zaxxon loaded perfectly. I've now replaced Zaxxan with the official coin-op conversion.

There are now 113 games on the SD card. I'm going to cut that number a little, by removing some of the weaker games. One casualty will be West Bank. West Bank is actually a good game. However, it has one flaw. The Kempston joystick option is clearly displayed on the menu, but that option doesn't work! It's little things like this that need to be addressed. Once done, I'll close the book on the SD card so I can finish off the Guide that'll go with the Speccy.

Maybe I'll get some gaming of my own done!
Frau Nydor is watching YOU!

Liz W
Site Admin
Posts: 675
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 6:47 pm
Location: Plymouth

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Liz W » Wed Sep 30, 2015 6:39 am

Thank you for keeping us updated Barry

I look forward to seeing the results of your hard work at ArmadaCon :D

Liz
-----------------------------------------
http://photosbylizw.wordpress.com

Spudgun
Posts: 3425
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Spudgun » Wed Sep 30, 2015 8:05 pm

Thanks for that Liz. I'm still fine tuning the games. I've had to delete some good ones as well. Daley Thompson's Decathlon had to go because it's a 'joystick waggler'. I'm bringing a converted Sega Megadrive joypad and not a joystick. The joypad isn't something you can 'waggle'. Viz had to go. Although it's a fun game. It's not for kids. There's BAD language a-plenty! The list goes on. Play testing the games has been fun, but my thumbs are now sore. I'm now happy with the 101 games that I currently have on the SD card. Now that I can handle TZX files. I can go back and re do the games that failed to load as TAP files and see if they're any good.
Frau Nydor is watching YOU!

Liz W
Site Admin
Posts: 675
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 6:47 pm
Location: Plymouth

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Liz W » Thu Oct 01, 2015 7:59 pm

The Daly Thompson's Decathlon rings a bell; I'm pretty sure I had that game too!
I'll be able to tell you when I see it!

Liz
-----------------------------------------
http://photosbylizw.wordpress.com

Spudgun
Posts: 3425
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Spudgun » Fri Oct 02, 2015 5:51 pm

Liz. This is a link to the game in question.

http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseek ... id=0001217

As I've mentioned before. It's a joystick 'waggler'. I used to have a Quickshot 2 joystick. It had rubber suckers on the bottom, so it could be 'stuck' to a surface. However. Over enthusiastic 'waggling' would cause the joystick to detach itself from the surface. As a result, things got knocked about. Now. I'm not into this PC Health & Safety rubbish, so I don't care if teeth go missing, etc if there's an accident whilst 'waggling'. I deleted the game because I don't want to get done for murder if anything happened to my Speccy. OK I was being cynical here. As I've said before. I'm bringing a Sega joypad and not a proper joystick. You just can't 'waggle' on a joypad. Trust me. I've tried. So it made the game kinda redundant. Moving on......

The search for games is over. The SD card has been loaded. The guide has been printed. Is this thread finished? Not a bit of it!

There are now 104 games on the SD card. There should be something to interest everyone. The SD card itself has been set to Read Only. This is to prevent accidents. Games can still be added at the Con, but that's my job. Any further additions from now on will be put in the Requests folder.

There will be those who will find little time to play on the Speccy in a single sitting. However, they may wish to continue playing a game and not have to start from the beginning each time. Help is at hand. If you've got a spare SD card. I can format it and load on the needed files. The capacity of the SD doesn't need to be very big (The one I'm bringing is only 128Meg). I'll show you how to save a game at any point and then reload it from that point. It's very easy.

I've yet to finish sorting out my laptop. Although I tested downloading TAP files and adding them to the SD card. I've yet to add the capability of dealing with TZX files. That's next on the to-do list.
Frau Nydor is watching YOU!

Spudgun
Posts: 3425
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Spudgun » Sat Oct 03, 2015 6:39 pm

Time for an aside.

I use a converted Sega Megadrive joypad to play games with. Why? I'll tell you. I used to have a Sega Megadrive. I found that the joypad was so much easier to use than the joystick on the Spectrum. Since the Megadrive I had came with 2 joypads. I converted one to use with the Speccy. I should mention that this was about 10 years ago. The Megadrive is long gone.

There's one small snag in using the joypad on the Speccy. You can't use all of the buttons. For anyone who isn't familiar with the Sega joypad. It has a directional pad. Three buttons (Marked A, B and C) and a Pause button. For normal Spectrum gaming. Only the directional aspect (Up, down, left and right) and fire are available. The other buttons don't work.

There are a number of games that require inputs that can't be accommodated by the joystick alone. Games like Head Over Heels, Operation Wolf and Castle Master spring to mind. I found it to be a real pain in the neck not having everything on the joypad. However. A spare interface and a soldering iron solved the problem.

I had a spare Sinclair Interface 2. This interface supported two joysticks. Since I wasn't in the habit of indulging in two simultaneous player games, I didn't need the second joystick port. I added some jumper wires from port 1 to port 2 and bingo! I had a fully functional joypad. All I had to do was; Select the Redefine option and assign functions to the extra buttons. Simple! Now for the downside (As far as retro gaming at the Con is concerned).

My converted Sinclair Interface 2 only has a ZX Printer port at the back. This port is smaller (fewer pins) than the edge connector at the front. In short. I can't connect the DivMMC interface to the rear of the Sinclair Interface 2. I really need the Ram Turbo Interface. There in lies another problem. Is it really worth the effort when I've got a 128K +2B?

The +2 and +3 range of Speccys have built in joystick ports. It would be far easier (and less messy) to add jumper wires to these machines. The bonus being; You wouldn't have a string of devices plugged into the back. Today. I converted a Sega joypad that I bought off Ebay to work on my +2B. I haven't added the jumper wires yet, but that's to come!
Frau Nydor is watching YOU!

Spudgun
Posts: 3425
Joined: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:34 pm

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Post by Spudgun » Thu Oct 08, 2015 7:35 pm

Yet another aside.

Now that preparations for retro gaming at the Con are almost complete (Just test loading a TZX file via my laptop to go). I've been able to advance my idea of an ideal Speccy set-up.

Up until now. Everything has been done in fits and bursts. I'd buy a part, then 5 years later, I'd buy another. Yeah. I get distracted easily. Hell. I've done nothing to my ZX81 set-up for about 10 years! Having said that. The parts I want are as rare as hens teeth! Parts for the Speccy are a lot easier to get. One of the biggest bones of contention is; People want items that are pristine condition. Stuff in this condition are made of 'Unobtanium'. Well. Not quite. But these parts do have a price to match.

The price of a complete 48K 'rubber key' Spectrum in mint, boxed condition would cost about £300. Thankfully, I'm not really worried about the box. Oh. If you're interested. You can buy and empty box for about £20, but I digress. When I first wanted to build the 'ideal' Speccy set-up, reproduction parts didn't exist. So you took the best you could get for the price you wanted to pay. Things have changed.

On previous pages, I mentioned that I had refurbished my 48K Speccy. It had a new keyboard membrane and a new facia plate. I also mentioned these parts were freshly made reproductions. Well, these reproduction parts now extend to other Sinclair products. One of which is the ZX Microdrive. For hose who don't know. The ZX Microdrive is like a miniature 8-track cartridge machine (Don't bother to ask me what an 8-track machine is. If you don't know. Google it. I suppose you could Google ZX Microdrive as well. Yeah. Google it. It'll save me the problem of explaining them). Moving swifty on. I bought a Microdrive many years ago, but I could never get my hands on a second one. My Wafadrive (A technological flop) had two drives built into a single case. A program could be copied or moved from one drive to another. However. The Wafadrive was about as reliable as babies bottom. I lost a fair few programs with the Wafadrive, so back in the box it went. The ZX Microdrive can be (not 'is') a lot more reliable. Even after a number of years in a box. The Microdrive I have worked perfectly. Even all of the cartridges worked. So far, so good.

I've now obtained a second Microdrive. Because reproduction parts are now available. I could buy a unit that was a little shabby. Well. The one I bought was just that. It was missing its rubber feet and the facia plate. It arrived today. I stripped it down. Gave it a good clean and then tested it. It works perfect! I've now bought replacement feet and a new facia plate. I'm just waiting for them to arrive.

I've still got other bits to get. I've yet to service the ZX printers i have, but that's another story.
Frau Nydor is watching YOU!

Post Reply