This Shrunken ZX Spectrum+ Emulator Boasts a Fully-Working, Albeit Minimalist, Keyboard

Powered by an Orange Pi Zero 2 and an Arduino Micro, this 3D-printed all-in-one includes only the keys necessary for arcade gameplay.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months ago3D Printing / Retro Tech / Gaming

Pseudonymous maker "SrBlonde," also known as "Sr Rubio," has built an all-in-one homage to the classic eight-bit Sinclair ZX Spectrum+, shrinking the size down considerably while retaining a functional keyboard — by ditching all the keys not necessary for playing his favorite games.

"I made the design in [Autodesk] Fusion 360," SrBlonde explains of the diminutive but fully-functional machine, "with the idea of recreating a spectrum+ with its real keyboard to simulate the games I played in my childhood."

Designed for usability in a small footprint, this all-in-one ZX Spectrum+ emulator packs only the most important keyboard keys. (📹: SrBlonde/Sr Rubio)

The look of the system mimics Rick Dickinson's famous industrial design of the ZX Spectrum+, which took the original hardware design of Sinclair's eight-bit ZX Spectrum microcomputer and housed it in a case inspired by the company's ill-fated QL, or Quantum Leap, business machine. Where the original was housed in a keyboard chassis, as with most of the home computers of the era, SrBlonde's "Micro Spectrum+" opts for an all-in-one approach inspired by arcade cabinets.

Inside the 3D-printed housing is an Orange Pi Zero 2 single-board computer running the Batocera Linux distribution, which comes pre-loaded with emulators for a range of classic systems including the ZX Spectrum family. There's a 5" IPS color display to the top, just below stereo speakers driven by a 3W amplifier, and a battery pack to allow for wire-free play.

It's the device's keyboard that impresses, though. Mimicking the keys of the original ZX Spectrum+, the keyboard is fully-functional — but only houses the keys absolutely necessary for arcade action gameplay, in order to keep each to a usable size while reducing the machine's overall footprint. Each key is wired into an Arduino Micro, which emulates a USB gamepad.

More details on the project are available on SrBlonde's Hackaday.io page, while the 3D print files have been published to UltiMaker's Thingiverse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

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