A Raspberry Pi-Packing Cassette Powers This ZX Spectrum Emulator

A retro, cylindrical monitor next to what appears to be a cassette tape with a USB cable plugged into it.

Sometimes we are vaguely aware of the inexorable march of technological progress. Other times it thrums steadily under the surface while we go about our lives. And sometimes, just sometimes, it smacks us right in the face.

Few projects can demonstrate the advancement and miniaturization of computing technology like putting an entire functional computer inside a storage medium that once only held mere kilobytes of data. And that’s exactly what [JamHamster] has done by stuffing a Raspberry Pi Zero W inside a cassette tape to run his ZX Spectrum emulator. It’s an impressive and clean build, and it pairs so well with a downright gorgeous, retro inspired, CRT-lookalike LCD monitor, which is another creation of his.

A Raspberry Pi Zero with several areas lightly trimmed away inside an open cassette tape.

The Pi did have to undergo a bit of light surgery; though he managed to lose only four GPIO pins in the operation. He also put a ton of love into a literally-highly-polished aluminum heatsink, which is entirely hidden within the case but does keep the computer cool in its claustrophobic quarters. Of course, [JamHamster] isn’t new to these cassette builds. You may recognize his work from the TZXDuino, a virtual tape loader for the ZX Spectrum.

Honestly, sometimes we just have to sit back and be amazed at the kind of computer power that can be packed into such tiny packages. The Pi Zero isn’t the smallest or the most powerful of options, but it is far more capable than the computer it is emulating here. So whether they’re hiding inside outdated storage formats or powering a stock-looking sleeper PSP, we just can’t help but be impressed.

21 thoughts on “A Raspberry Pi-Packing Cassette Powers This ZX Spectrum Emulator

    1. Something like that is pencilled in on my “someday” list. Cassette with audio player built in and “all the games” available to play in through the tape head from LCD screen menu.

      1. Oh, I know that is a common conclusion here on HaD, but I didn’t completely comprehend the title. I saw “ZX Spectrum” but I overlooked “emulator”. There are number of microprocessor devices out there that add functionality to existing Spectrums e.g. RAM/ROM expansion and I/O; and that is what I thought was the purpose of this device, not an emulator. Following my wrong logic, I expected it to interface with an existing Spectrum in a traditional way.

  1. when i saw this build all i could think about is heat management. i have no doubt it’s plausible to run the thing, and who would expect it to be able to run full tilt? but i have been astonished to learn that the raspberry pi has no regular idle mode. it consumes whole watts just executing HALT or WFI or whatever they call it. it’s like an intel laptop cpu from 12 years ago. thet case tape will burn your fingers even when no game is loaded. i don’t know how people convince themselves this is viable technology.

  2. Despite being young and fitting in that Gen Y category, I was never fascinated by todays technology and its miniaturization. Rather the contrary, I have a lot more of respect for the bulky old stuff from the ~1970s that was designed by bare hands and through the help a lot of phantasy. Anyway.. I really like this one. It’s both cute and a homage to the datasette era. Thumbs up! 😃

  3. Great work Jamhamster! I also like that you can address the comments here of “pffft you should have done X…” by pointing out that you have already built X and shared it :-)

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.