Here we have our latest RVG Interviews with Ben Versteeg, owner of Byte Delight, creators of the fabulous DivMMC EnJOY! flashcard solution and the new ZX HD interface allowing HDMI output from a Spectrum and many more cool devices.
Thank you for agreeing to our interview, please take a moment to tell us a little about you?Ben
I’m Ben Versteeg, I’m 41, and I had my first ZX Spectrum when I was about 8 or 9, so somewhere around 1985. I remember the kind of geek I was back then, dreaming of computers and always running to the computer departments at every store that had one.
Before I got my first ZX Spectrum, I remember I loved the look and feel of the Sinclair QL, and also the Amstrad PPC 640S – not knowing they were about to take over Sinclair! After a couple of years I got a toastrack (ZX Spectrum 128K) and a Disciple floppy disk interface – that was the best time ever 😉
I visited lots of Sinclair enthusiasts meetings, mostly those from the Dutch HCC (Hobby Computer Club).Zapiy
Why the name ‘ByteDelight’?Ben
Well, a year or 4 ago I was seriously thinking of expanding the work I was doing with producing hardware and developing new things. So I wanted to register at our CoC, and had to come up with a name. ByteDelight was the best I could think of at that time, but I think it’s a unique name people recognize very well now. I don’t think I have to explain what’s behind it
Can you tell us the mission statement of ‘ByteDelight’?Ben
Developing and producing new hardware for retro computers, refurbishing and selling used machines and more.
With more I mean for example the weekly shows I started 3 weeks ago on YouTube. I really enjoy that, and it seems people like it. If the interest in retro computer hardware dies down, I might think of other electronic devices I can develop and produce – I am installing a production line with pick and place machine in a couple of weeks.
Oh, and since I’m signing an agreement this week with my employer that I will leave the company, ByteDelight will be the main source of income for my family.Zapiy
What is the biggest challenge you face with the limitations of the hardware, particularly as you continue to expand features to your products?Ben
I never thought of that way – using retro computers is something that has its own place in my heart, so I don’t expect more of them as they are up to. Well, sometimes I want to develop some small machine code routines, which isn’t easy on the original machines (I often press the wrong keys, deleting lines for example). And of course the machines need maintenance – some customers blame my products when one of those get defective because of an old power supply they use for example ‘fortunately’ more and more are finding out those old PSU’s need replacement or refurbishment. The RMA’s of that kind cost me a lot of time and extra money though, but it’s part of the work, so let’s not bother about that too much.Greyfox
Can you tell us what prompted you to get involved in development of hardware for retro systems and are you trained in electronics?Ben
I studied electrical engineering for a couple of years yes, but I found out that was mostly for installing machines etc., not for fine electronics, so I lost a bit of motivation and actually didn’t finish that study. However I learned a lot about small electronics before that at a hobby club in Nijmegen where I grew up. Maybe that’s why I got bored at that school 😉 I always loved electronics, I was using a soldering iron when I was very young. Mostly disassembling all kinds of electronic stuff.
When I started that electrical engineering course I was living on my own (I was 17 back then) I wanted to build a laser harp, as I love Jean-Michel Jarre’s music and shows.
I built one in a very simple way – I used light-sensitive resistors (LDRs) that controlled keys on a midi-keyboard, which was connected to a Yamaha CS1x synthesizer – it worked! After that it didn’t take long before I was developing more stuff connected to a ZX Spectrum or PC.Greyfox
Which product you’ve created gave you the greatest pleasure and why?Ben
The laserharp 😉 It’s totally awesome playing music on light! I feel very creative building and playing that.
And during the last years I developed some awesome stuff – often collaborating with other genius people like Imre Jakli, George ‘Velesoft’, and more. The ZX-HD is the best example I think – I had an idea, knew it was possible and Imre and I just ‘did it’!Greyfox
Which product caused you the biggest headache and why?Ben
Hmmm, not sure. I know I was fighting with CPLD programming when I was trying to develop the PlusDlite floppy disk interface. I didn’t know a lot about CPLD’s and over-simplified it in my mind.
Programming CPLD’s, FPGA’s or microcontrollers is still not my strongest feature. Mostly due to lack of time (learning new stuff like that takes years).Zapiy
Any thoughts to venture into retro game publishing?Ben
If you mean promoting and offering games from others, yes, but starting game development projects (so game production), I don’t think I have the time for that. I really enjoy individual people or teams who develop new games for retro computers! If I could support them in any way, I would, like offering them on my website.TrekMD
Are you surprised with the resurgence in retro gaming?Ben
Yes and no. I never left the ZX Spectrum, so for me it has always been alive. I often think about the psychology behind why so many people do it – again! I concluded, what people grew up with in their teenager years, stays with them all their life. So if someone now after 35 years has the means to buy a setup they enjoyed back then, they will. And tens of thousands do!TrekMD
Any plans to move into other areas of the retro hardware scene? (any exclusives)Ben
Well, no concrete ideas yet, but I am certain that now I’ve decided to move towards doing retro computing stuff fulltime, lots of new things will appear. It always starts with an idea, and I never let go of ideas.
I have plenty of other machines already, but am seriously running out of space 😉 So hopefully I can find a larger space.
I did however show people my ideas about the ZX Go, and the EnJOY! Pro XL – the last one will be a combined interface with the looks of the awesome Disciple disk interface.Zapiy
What kind of development goes in creating something like the DivMMC Enjoy! or the ZX-HD HDMI Device?Ben
Lots of focused days and collaboration – for example it took me 3 full days manually routing the tracks on the DivMMC EnJOY! PRO ONE, which is now one of the smallest SD storage interfaces for the ZX Spectrum but with the largest feature set!
The ZX-HD took Imre and me months of intensive communication and testing. We did the majority of the development work within 6 weeks, and did some major improvements only a day or two before we launched it!
It’s very hard now to focus on these developments as sales are incredible at this moment. I just will have to create a weekly schedule with at least a day reserved for development.
Oh, I always take care of good communication with the original developers of products I am interested in producing, as I really want to give credit to them. So for example Mario Prato’s name is still on every single model of DivMMC EnJOY! interface I produce. I even interviewed him and Miguel Guerreiro (developer of ESXDOS) and published the article with the interviews, which is a great story to read!Zapiy
How do you spread the word about your products and is there a huge appetite for them?Ben
Well, it seems I almost don’t have to do a lot of marketing anymore, as other people show off their products they get from me. Like the article on Tweakers.net last Monday about the Harlequin kit I sold to one of the editors – something like that really increases interest a lot!Zapiy
What’s been your best-selling product so far?Ben
The DivMMC EnJOY! interface, the ‘DUO’ revision actually.TrekMD
Are you a gamer yourselves? What games and genres do you play?Ben
Back in the days it was R-Type (on the ZX Spectrum) which I loved the most. Nowadays lots of casual games to get off of work for a bit, but also Fortnite. Play some MMO’s as well, but now with my company I really can’t do that anymore.Finally
A huge thank you to Ben for taking the time to chat with us, you can learn more about Ben and his products on the links below.Byte Delight WebsiteByte Delight YouTube channel