Redditor Squeezes Raspberry Pi Zero Into a Cassette to Emulate ZX Spectrum Games

Cassette with a Raspberry Pi Zero embedded

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. from raspberry_pi

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.