As Raspberry Pi based retro emulation projects go, this one takes some beating. Redditor jamhamster has squeezed a Pi Zero W into an old Boots cassette to emulate ZX Spectrum games.
Released in 1982, the ZX Spectrum was insanely popular in the UK. Basically, of you didn’t have a Commodore 64 and you weren’t rich enough to own a BBC Micro, then you had the rubber keyed ZX Spectrum. The £125 computer was a fraction of the price of the competition, with specs to match: a Zilog Z80A processor running at 3.5MHz, at least 16KB of RAM (most had 48KB) and storage limited to a cassette tape. But unlike the C64 and VIC-20, the ZX Spectrum, the cassettes could be used in a standard player/recorder, plugged into the back of the ZX Spectrum.
Games for this computer were easily pirated, sadly, with high street retailers helping out with affordable, branded cassettes. C-15 was the preferred format, running to 15 minutes on each side – perfect for most games.
I got a Pi Zero W into a cassette tape and I’m using it to emulate a ZX Spectrum. I had to do some severe trimming but it works well and that heatsink keeps it icy cool even when overclocked.
Describing the build through various replies, jamhamster explains how the cassette chassis accommodated the Pi Zero W (the wireless iteration of the most compact Raspberry Pi). This involved removing some GPIO connectors to fit the PCB around reel holders. Other parts of the GPIO were employed, however – for a pair of USB-A ports and a shutdown button. A PWM is inserted in the case for audio, while the video out pins (not part of the GPIO) are also employed. Meanwhile, an aluminium heatsink keeps the Pi Zero W nice and cool.
The result is an impressive, retro looking system that can be easily connected to a TV to emulate ZX Spectrum games.
Gaming since 1984, retro gaming since 2004. Contributes to Linux Format magazine and MakeUseOf.com.