How did I get involved?
I can be really annoying. When I plan journeys I go into extreme detail, memorising which lanes I need to be in, “driving” the route in Google Street view. No stone is left unturned. This is true for other things in my life too. I have to have a handle on every detail. I have to know everything.
When the Spectrum Next idea was floated many years ago on a ZX Spectrum Facebook group, I knew this was something special. When the ZX Spectrum Next Facebook group was launched in 2017, I joined it immediately and started to get immersed in the world of all things Next.
Facebook groups by their very nature mean that repetition is extremely common. Information can be lost in days, sometimes hours. Humankind has little patience for searching for things anymore, to see if questions have already been asked and answered. I decided to answer that particular call by hoovering up all of the information available, remembering answers to questions so that when those questions came up again, I was right there with the answer.
I did this for months. I was learning as were other members of the group.
Back then, the Next team consisted of Henrique Olifiers, Victor Trucco, Fabio Belavenuto and Jim Bagley. It was Victor who promoted me within the ZX Spectrum Next Facebook group to the position of moderator. Over the next weeks and months, more members of the community were brought in to moderate the group as well.
As a result of the increased number of people managing the group, a Facebook chat was established with administrators and moderators now able to talk directly, and for us moderators to get more of an insider view into the project. Jim and Victor were the most present in terms of the core Next team. Fabio’s English was not great (far better than my Portuguese though) so communicated a lot less, and Henrique was running a games company which consumed most of his time.
These were exciting times; we could proxy questions from the Facebook group and go directly to the source for the answers. It was exciting because we knew things that no one else did. There were things we could not talk about openly until the time was right.
Between my dealings with the Facebook chat, I would also communicate with Henrique via email. Going back to my obsession for detail and ensuring every box was ticked, I would present lists to him. Things that needed to be done. Have you thought about this? Have you done that? What do you think about x? This went on for some time. He was fairly unresponsive back then so it would take time for him to get back to me. It was evident that he had a lot of other fish to fry. In his foreword in the Next manual, he admits to seeing the Next project initially as something he could deal with on weekends. HAHAHA.
It was September 2017 when Henrique sent me a message asking if I’d be willing to get involved with the Spectrum Next project. It was a few seconds before I hit yes. It was two weeks later that the flood gates opened, and he sent me every correspondence he was working on. Motherboards, cases, keyboards, power supplies, SD cards, packaging etc.
I have spent thousands of hours since then working on the Spectrum Next. Four and a half years later I’m still working on the Spectrum Next. My involvement is less than it was the first time around. After all, most of the homework had already been done for the first Kickstarter. That’s not to say that my sanity is any better as there are still plenty of challenges.
The team grew over the first Kickstarter, from the original four to around twelve. That’s not including the community who were feeding in ideas, and people working on other elements such as the manual. Let’s not forget the thousands of backers who make this possible.
Why am I even here? Because I was a pain in the arse. Because some guy I had never met took a punt on me. Asked me to get involved and fortunately, I’m a detail obsessed, pride driven, exacting, can’t keep my nose out of things, write everything down, shouty person.
I was fortunate, or unfortunate depending on how you look at it. Depending on the kind of day I’ve had determines on which side that particular coin falls.
I did shout a lot. It’s difficult to convey that when typing as I don’t like using exclamation marks. I find them annoying. Most of the Next was designed, troubleshooted (troubleshot?) and manufactured using email, WhatsApp and Facebook messenger.
Phil Candy, our industrial designer who worked on the Next with Rick Dickinson I spoke to daily on the phone. Sometimes multiple times each day. There were a huge number of details that were causing problems. There were gaps that needed addressing. Thanks to him and his keen eye and brain, they were all related to me, they were all discussed. Decisions were made and we’d move onto the next thing.
Henrique probably cause me to swear the most. He would jet off to America at the most inappropriate times. I had to prod him and remind him of things. Too much context switching on his part. My favourite emoji of his is this one.
It usually means I have just said something to him that makes him nervous. Reminded him of something important that needs to be done.
I have only ever met him the once, and spoken to him on the phone 3-4 times. Had maybe two video calls. All that in over four years. Everything else has been conveyed via some internet-based text thingy. When all is said and done, I can’t imagine a single other person doing what he does. He does it really well, even if he can be a pain in the arse sometimes.