Two great names from the prehistory of video games are set for revival, as ailing consumer electronics manufacturer Amstrad seeks to buy the copyright to Sinclair Spectrum games.
Amstrad bought Sinclair Research's computer interests in 1986, including all rights to the phenomenally successful 8-bit ZX Spectrum home computer. It stopped developing the Spectrum a couple of years later and hasn't used the name since. However, the company has recently placed adverts in the games industry press looking for "developers/writers who may own the copyright to any Spectrum games" for "an exciting new project, due to launch in 2002."
The company will not be drawn on the nature of this project, but sources close to Amstrad say that it is likely to be related to telephony.
The company has previously considered mobile phones with embedded Spectrum games, and is known to be actively developing the next model of the e-m@iler messaging home phone. Disagreements over that product's future led to the departure of Amstrad's chief executive, Bob Watkins, in October: he was known to be in favour of mobile phone development but very unhappy about the company's continued emphasis on the e-m@iler.
Spectrum games are enjoying a nostalgic revival at the moment, with many thousands available for near-instant download from many sites on the Web.
PC owners have a choice of over 100 Spectrum emulators, including ones written in Java that could potentially run on many different platforms.
Amstrad has previously said it will allow use of the Spectrum ROM--necessary for emulators--on a not-for-profit basis, but the legal status of many of the games is unclear.
Staff writer Rupert Goodwins reported from London.