NextProse (prologue)

NextProse (prologue)

OK, fine, it must be about time I talked about this. My adventure into borderline insanity, stage 1. Descent into madness, pride before a fall, Arantor’s ego, pick 3.

So anyway. I am one of those people lucky enough to own a ZX Spectrum Next. For those not familiar with it, it’s a computer based on the 1980s UK home computer family originally produced by Sinclair (and later Amstrad) where someone has come along much later and gone ‘if Sinclair hadn’t exited the home market, what might the next one have looked like?’ Or, alternatively, if the ZX Spectrum’s peer was the C64, what would the next one, whose peer would have been the Amiga, have looked like?

Well, it looks rather like the ZX Spectrum Next, although it has a few more modern refinements than the 1990s would have had, not least SD card storage.

Anyway. It’s a machine with 1 or 2MB of RAM, a little tiny CPU that runs at a stonking 28MHz maximum and I have one. And so I thought I’d like to write some software for it.

Partly that’s because I want to change gears. I’ve spent the last too-many years writing mostly PHP and I want to change gears into something where I have to think differently about everything. Experimenting in Godot and Rust and a few other things taught me that wasn’t where I wanted to be, not yet. I have things in other places I will come back to when I’m ready, but first this.

Partly because I want a word processor that suits me. I don’t particularly like Word. I don’t know anyone who will admit to liking it, either. What I want is a word processor that doesn’t try to do all the things, and it occurs to me that the Next also gives me a pretty convenient distraction-free environment to do the writing thing. No Twitter tab or Discord on it to distract me.

I don’t have lofty goals, not really. Just something that will let me write text, look nice enough, maybe do bold and italics (I’m not super fussed but let’s call it a stretch goal). I do, however, need accented letters for my needs. So I’m immediately thinking ‘ISO-8859-1 as an encoding’ and ‘maybe RTF as a data format’. This so far to my hopelessly naive mind seems achievable.

My Next is the second Kickstarter edition, so it has a full 2MB of RAM on board. This seems like oodles of memory and if I were ever in any danger of filling it, there’s an SD card like right there.

The only question that really remains is… can I actually build it? I write stuff in fairly hardcore PHP all the time. I used to write Z80 assembly on a Spectrum – 20 years ago. What’s the worst that could happen?


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