ZX Spectrum to be relaunched as retro games boom

The ZX Spectrum, an 8-bit classic from the 1980s boom in home computing, is to get a relaunch thanks to retro games developer Elite Systems.

Designed by oddball British boffin Sir Clive Sinclair, the original Spectrum was available in a number different configurations, with memory ranging from 16 kilobytes in the most basic model, to the whopping 128K boasted by the top-of-the-range Spectrum +3 in latter years.

Based around a 3.5MHz processor, the most popular 48K model sold for the then king's ransom of £175 (as close to damn it as £500 in today's money) when it launched in 1982.

The computer's colour palette was limited to 15 colours, and with no built-in storage, games and other programs had to be loaded and saved using a cassette tape recorder, in a process that took many minutes and sounded like someone falling asleep with a kazoo in their mouth.

Nevertheless, teenage boys - including many of Thinq's staff - flocked to the device in droves. In all, more than five million Spectrums were sold worldwide.

The sad news for middle-aged geeks - or ZX purists - is that Elite Systems' relaunched model won't be a 'real' Spectrum.

The device is actually a Bluetooth keyboard in the shape and style of the Spectrum, which can be paired with a PC running Spectrum emulator software, enabling users to play classic games like Jet Set Willy and Horace Goes Skiing with the authentic, rubbery keyboard that many described as feeling like 'dead flesh'.

The reboot comes as gamers are showing a surge of interest in simpler, retro-styled gaming, with smartphone titles such as Angry Birds and Elite's own Paperboy stealing the lives of iPhone and Android users.

Elite Systems hasn't given any precise launch date, but it's thought that the product will be released to coincide with the Spectrum's 30th anniversary in 2012.

Its price has yet to be confirmed.