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Vintage & Modern Tech Blog

Latest ZX Vega will have keyboard support.

February 26, 2016

 

Ever since the Vega was first announced back in November 2014, critics and gamers have noted it's lack of a keyboard. Not surprising really - it's for playing games on, right?

 

Well, yes - but, as people keep pointing out they want to be able to play text adventures, a popular type of game similar to those multipath books where you go to specific page depending on how you choose to deal with a situation.

 

This was a popular format of game at the beginning of the home computer market, and there are, from memory something like 200 text adventures built in to the ZX Spectrum Vega.

 

True - there is a virtual keyboard included in the Vega's firmware but, it's never going to be the same as typing on a QWERTY keyboard like every model of  ZX Spectrum produced in the years 1982 to 1992 had as standard.

 

There's not just text adventures to think of though - if you've ever played a train or plane simulator, or any other kind of game designed to work on a machine with lots of keys to spare, perhaps an RPG - you'll know that a D-Pad and 7 buttons is never going to be enough.

 

Again, the Vega has a solution in a switchable primary/secondary controls system but, this may not always be ideal, particularly for fast paced gameplay. It will, therefore, be of great relief to those interested in buying the new incarnation of the ZX Spectrum - the Vega+, with its built in screen, headphone socket, and gorgeous casing designed by Rick Dickinson - visual designer of the original rubber keyed 16/48k computer that in the specifications published on the Retro Computers Ltd website, external plugin keyboard support has been included.

 

Not only that, but support for programming in the BASIC environment is in there too (of course, pressing BREAK while playing some programs written in BASIC might have got you there by a different route already).

 

All in all the Vega+ is shaping up to be a neat little handheld, and clearly crowdfunders think so too - the original funding target was £100,000 in one month. As with the original Vega, this was met in a matter of hours, and with over three weeks of the campaign left to go, a whopping 270% (rounded) has been raised. Visit Crowdfunding Campaign.

 

History: turning a computer into console is not a new idea. Amstrad tried it with the GX4000 in 1990 - essentially a CPC464+ with no keyboard or tape support. Commodore made their wildly popular C64 into the C64GS (standing for Games System) later in 1990, and the Amiga 1200 was the basis for the CD32 which only sold 100,000 units due to component supply problems.

 

As for the GX4000 and C64GS? Customers didn't see any good reason to pay more for a cartridge of the same game that they could get on tape and run on a computer for less money. Bizarre then, that in the mid-1990s, it wasn't unusual to pay over £50GBP for a Nintendo or SEGA cartridge to run on the SNES or Megadrive(non-European name: SEGA Genesis). With thousands of archived games available for free legal download, the Vega/Vega+ doesn't have this disadvantage.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Stephen

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