The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was a compact and affordable personal computer when it first launched in 1982 for £125 (the equivalent of £470 or $745 in 2022). Designed to use tape cassettes for storage, it was also relatively easy to obtain media.

But computers have gotten a lot smaller and cheaper over the past four decades, and one hardware hacker has proven that by stuffing a fully functional PC inside a hollowed-out tape cassette. In other words, you can run ZX Spectrum games and software on a device that looks like storage for the original computer.

The latest issue of the MagPi magazine includes an interview with Stuart Brand, who explains that he used a hand file and side cutters to open up a cassette tape and then used a dremel to file down a Raspberry Pi Zero W so that it could fit inside (he lost some GPIO pins, but the little computer is otherwise still functional).

He then wired up some extra USB ports and A/V ports for connecting to an old-school CRT display and built a custom heat sink from a piece of sheet metal which offers enough cooling to safely overclock the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

Brand says the system boots into a ZX Spectrum Emulator in just 16 seconds.

You can find more details at MagPi.

via Yanko Design

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  1. Now I can tell this is a read only computer because the record tongues at the bottom of the cassette are broken. He can make it recordable by cramming some tissue paper into the two holes.

  2. While this is very cool… I think it is a lost opportunity. If he used the magnetic tape “interface” it could have actually fit in a tape player and used its audio out.

    1. You mean like the way those cassette tape adapters work that add an 1/8 inch stereo jack to cars that don’t have one?

    2. Not only this, but placing a generator inside, the SOC could be powered by the rotation of the cassette-driver

  3. looks great! has a very nice tactile feel. the only thing i’d change is adding rotary encoders for the tape spinners.