Peter "Bobricius" Misenko's PicoZX LCD Is the Handheld Sinclair ZX Spectrum the 1980s Never Got

With its own 2.8" color screen and integrated 18650 battery support, this is a perfectly portable emulator for the ZX Spectrum and more.

Gareth Halfacree
10 months agoRetro Tech / Gaming / HW101

Peter "Bobricius" Misenko has unveiled another portable system built atop the Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller board, and this one's a feature-packed handheld designed to emulate the classic Sinclair ZX Spectrum line of eight-bit home computers.

Released in 1982 as a follow-up to the Sinclair ZX81 and earlier Sinclair ZX80, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum — released in the US as the Timex Sinclair 2048 — was the company's first color computer and proved a hit with gamers, selling over five million units throughout its original production runs. The system is still popular today, in no small part due to the iconic "attribute clash" in its graphics, and is often emulated — which is where Misenko's project comes in.

This Raspberry Pi Pico-powered handheld is the portable Sinclair ZX Spectrum you've always wanted. (📹: Bobricius)

Misenko began the project last year, creating a device which — despite using his iconic manufacturing technique of sandwiching multiple PCBs to create both the electronics and its housing — bore more of a resemblance to the original Sinclair Spectrum and, like the real deal, required an external display. The new variant, though, is a true all-in-one, packing its own compact 2.8" IPS display and an 18650 battery with charging circuit for retro-gaming on the go.

The new device, dubbed the PicoZX LCD, includes a USB Type-C connector for power, a 49-key QWERTY-layout keyboard based on small tactile switches and using an overlay PCB to label each key with the various functions of the original, and the option to switch between cursor and Kempston joystick input modes.

There's a microSD slot for software storage, a port for an external joystick, another for an external display, and a built-in speaker — connected to an emulated sound system which offers General Instruments AY chip compatibility for something a little better than the original hardware's basic beeps.

On the software front, the Raspberry Pi Pico running the handheld runs Fruit-Bat's ZX Spectrum emulator alongside Jean-Marc Harvenght's Multi-Computer Machine Emulator (M.CU.M.E) — which means that, should you tire of the best in 1980s British computer gaming, you can quickly switch the gadget to emulating other devices of the same era including the Commodore 64, Atari 2600, and Colecovision.

More details on the project are available on Misenko's Hackaday.io page.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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