Even if he did have a stinky VIC-20 instead of a ZX Spectrum. Colour clash was a feature dammit.
This post was going to be just an up-to-date summary of many other articles out there on this subject. With the rapid rate of change in the RPi world, even very recent guides have proven to be unusable quite quickly.
However I’d first like to remember Mike Singleton who died last week. I didn’t know his name until today when I read this lovely piece about him. But what I did know about was Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge. Those two adventure games dominated that category on the ZX Spectrum in the mid-80s. Mike was still creating new games until very recently. It’s just another reminder of how important the 1980s UK home computer scene has been to the current gaming industry. In memory of Mike, I’m playing Lords of Midnight from the start again this evening on the Raspberry Pi. RIP.
The Raspberry Pi makes a brilliant base for old-school game emulation, just as it does for XBMC. You literally just need it, a USB joystick, maybe a wireless dongle, a TV and you are in business. I’ve been very tempted to double-sided-sticky-tape one to the side of the TV without a case, it’s that small. I’m currently using an ancient 14″ Philips portable CRT to get the full retro effect, including blinding flickering.
OK, I have to admit my rose-tinted spectacle were on overdrive here. The Atari 2600 Pacman in my head was actually the arcade version. The real thing is pretty awful. This console was a bit before my time and the main thing I remember about it were the completely unusable joysticks. But if you want to re-live that horror, then it’s really very simple.
Grab all the Atari 2600 ROMs from one of many sites. They are tiny so the download takes no time at all.
Then install the Stella emulator:
sudo apt-get install stella
Then just run stella inside X Windows. More details here.
MAME seems to have been around forever. It enables you to play old arcade games on a wide variety of machines. I remember using it on my brother-in-law’s Atari 520ST in the 90s.
So it’s no surprise it works well on the Raspberry Pi. Compiling from source apparently takes forever and some of the binaries from this summer don’t work on the latest Debian release. However this latest compiled version of Advance MAME by Shea Silverman runs perfectly on the latest Debian.
Download it to your home directory, then
unzip mameBin.zip sudo chmod 777 /dev/fb0
Put your roms into ~/mame/share/advance/rom/
cd mame/bin/ ./advmame
Edit the config file
to include the proper display configuration
For HDMI try:
device_video_clock 5 - 50 / 15.62 / 50 ; 5 - 50 / 15.73 / 60
For NTSC TVs try:
device_video_clock 5 - 50 / 15.73 / 60
For Composite PAL TVs:
device_video_clock 5 - 50 / 15.62 / 50 ; 5 - 50 / 15.73 / 60
Then run MAME with the name of the game e.g. pacman or zaxxon.
I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to source their own legal ROMs.
cd mame/bin/ ./advmame gamename
Installing the Fuse emulator is now trivial to do:
sudo apt-get install fuse-emulator-common fuse-emulator-utils spectrum-roms
There are ton of other emulators out there, at various levels of usability. Our eldest has already been asking about SNES.
Of course I write too much about the ZX Spectrum. Heck look at the header image. But when a tiny little computer has such an impact on your life, it deserves your attention, even 30 years later. I hope all of you who built the first iPhone Apps have held on to your first device and do the same in 25 years time.
My only disappointment today is that I don’t have a Raspberry Pi yet to sit alongside it as its spiritual successor. I honestly think, with the right support, the Raspberry Pi could be this generation’s ZX Spectrum. Affordable by most people in the midst of a worldwide recession.
Why don’t the BBC, RTE, DR and all the other taxpayer-supported European TV stations come together and do a 2012 version of The Computer Programme, based around a boxed version of the RPi? Heck, make it part of the school curriculum. Yeah, really showing my age there.
I put together this video today showing my old Speccy (vintage late-1982) still working, still making me smile. I had to cheat and use a laptop to do the game loading as I can’t find any of my old tapes and the Aiwa walkman isn’t even 1980s vintage anyway. My old Lloytron mono tape recorder is AWOL too. Otherwise, all totally authentic stuff.
Note, if anyone has any idea why the colour is off on the TV output and how I might fix it, please leave a comment.
Have a read of this great interview with some of the Spectrum’s designers over on the BBC.
Thanks again Sir Clive. And an ever bigger thanks to my parents.
Yes I know it’s a stupid thing to want to do but dammit, if it’s technically possible, we should at least try.
One of the most annoying things about the HTC Sensation is how HTC has hamstrung it with a brain-dead Bluetooth stack instead of the one provided by the chipset provider. This means it cannot do the HID profile to support keyboards, mice and Wiimotes. The only reason they do this is to shoehorn the horror that is HTC Sense on top of Android. Sense can’t even do landscape orientation of the home screen FFS!
If you switch to one of the AOSP-based ROMs like Cyanogen, you gain a proper Bluetooth stack but, for the moment, you lose MHL, which means you cannot connect the phone via HDMI to your TV to play movies/games.
But something changed recently with the latest HTC ROMs and I learned that the Android Revolution HD ROM, which I have used many times in the past, now supports both MHL and HID. It is a community variation of the official Sensation ROM so it still has the Sense crap but it seems to be rock solid otherwise and has lots of benefits you miss with the official ROMs.
So this is why I wanted to get both working:
Not my best ever video work, to put it mildly. But you get the idea.
To do the same you need:
UPDATE: I also started investigating USB OTG on the Sensation this week. This is where you can use the USB interface to plug USB sticks, cameras, hard disks etc into the Sensation rather than the usual reverse. Yet again the hardware is capable of it, the standard drivers support it, but HTC has messed up the implementation.
Why the hell would you create devices with such amazing technical specs and then disable those features due to an obsession with a shitty software skin that offers no added-value to the end-user and which no-one has ever bought a phone for? Don’t get me started on the fact that the CPU in my phone is actually designed for 1.5GHz but ships clocked at 1.2GHz.
Yesterday I finally got both MHL to the TV and Bluetooth to the Wiimote working with a ZX Spectrum Emulator on my HTC Sensation (video coming over the weeked). I was amused by the fact that I was emulating a cheap old computer with an expensive mobile phone.
Then I wondered – How cheap was the Spectrum compared to the Sensation? Some googling for inflation adjusters later and I realised I was completely wrong. It wasn’t cheap at all.
My original 1982 16K Spectrum cost £125 in WH Smith. Adjusted for inflation that’s £377.50 which is €461! Ouch, I really had no idea. An unsubsidised Sensation on Expansys is cheaper at €439.
If my parents hadn’t paid that serious chunk of money back then, who knows where I would have ended up in life…….
UPDATE: All of which makes the Raspberry Pi a staggering bargain and utterly transformational. Seeing someone on their site beg for early samples so he could show them to a African country’s government is just one example of how important RPi is. Far beyond its technical specs or size.
The kids’ non-360 XBOX running XBMC has been an amazing piece of kit. We’ve had it for over 4 years and got it second-hand for approx €60 but it maxes out at 480p content. I had thought that getting a replacement like the Patriot or WD Live TV would cost north of €80. But some geniuses have got XBMC running on the Raspberry Pi. A streaming media player with HDMI, LAN and 1080p support for £31 including VAT and delivery? Yes please.
Also, someone has already beaten me to the punch by getting a ZX Spectrum emulator running on it. We need someone to make cases that look exactly like 48K Spectrums, including a working keyboard, that the RPi can slot into. Do it!
Just to be sure I’m not living in a middle-class fantasyland, it’d be great to get as many people from as many backgrounds as possible to answer this poll. I know I know, if you are on Facebook/Twitter, it’s already skewing it badly, but let’s give it a go.
Basically I want to confirm that Raspberry Pi with its HDMI video output is inclusive for the majority of people in UK/Ireland. Yes, it has Composite-out too but you’d go blind trying to use that for anything except watching videos.
Interesting sidenote – Radionics now showing an ad on Google for it when you search for Raspberry Pi. Nice one.
Cross Dominant is Stephen Fry proof thanks to caching by WP Super Cache