Recreating The Jupiter ACE

What looks like a Sinclair ZX81 but runs Forth? If you said a Jupiter ACE, you get a gold star. These are rare because ordinary people in 1982 didn’t want Forth, so only about 5,000 of the devices were sold. [Cees Meijer] assumes they are unaffordable, so he built a replica and shows you how you can, too. [Scott Baker] built one recently; you can see his video below.

The resemblance to the Sinclair computer wasn’t just a coincidence. Richard Altwasser and Steven Vickers were behind the computer, and both had worked for Sinclair previously. In addition to being famous for using Forth, the machine initially had a badly manufactured case and an unreliable keyboard. A later version tried to correct these issues, but there were fewer than 1,000 made. [Cees’] replica used a design from [Grant Searle] with some modifications.

We liked the realistic look of the 3D printed keyboard. The keyboard uses white plastic with raised letters. A quick black spray paint followed by sanding gives the appearance of black keys with white printed text.

Overall, this is a good-looking build of a computer you probably won’t see in person. We wish Forth had caught on in the early PC world, but it didn’t. [Grant] was prolific with replica computers, and [Cees] isn’t the only one who used that work as a starting point for their own projects. If you want real old-school Forth, you have to go back a few more years.

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Rekindling Forth With A Propeller Jupiter Ace


The Jupiter Ace was a small membrane keyboard, cassette tape drive computer akin to the ZX Spectrum released in 1982. Priced at £90, it was a little more expensive than its home computer contemporaries, but had a very interesting feature: instead of BASIC, the Ace ran Forth. This interpreted stack-based language is far more capable than the BASIC variants found on home computers of the day, but unfortunately the Ace failed simply because Forth was so foreign to most consumers.

Not wanting to let a good idea die, [prof_braino] is bringing Forth back into the modern age. He’s using a Parallax Propeller to emulate a simple home computer running Forth. Instead of a book-sized computer, the new Propeller version runs on a single chip, with 8 CPU cores running 24 times faster than the original, with 32 times more RAM and an SD card for basically unlimited storage.