Letters Issue 31 Contents Spectrum Software Scene

Hardware World

Emperor looks good

THE EMPEROR KEYBOARD for the Spectrum from Saga Systems, previewed in the June issue of Sinclair User, is now available in the shops. It has undergone a few design changes since then, primarily the removal of the single key functions, but it still retains its good looks, positive key action and 67 separate keys.

Emperor keyboard

In addition to the traditional 40 keys there are 21 of the most commonly used functions on separate keys plus an extra three symbol shift and one caps shift keys. Those are arranged so that the functions are adjacent to a shift key. In that way one finger can be used to press both keys, a system that works remarkably well. Those extra functions are the mathematical - addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and equals; punctuation - full stop, comma, semi-colon and colon; together with hash and dollar. All are operated by symbol shift. Delete, edit, graphics, caps lock and the four cursor keys are operated by caps shift. For good measure there are two enter keys and extra run, save and 0 keys.

To fit the keyboard the top half of the Spectrum is removed and the bottom half, containing the PC13, is bolted under the base of the keyboard. As the original Spectrum base is now the base of the new keyboard, add-ons such as Interface One connect with difficulty. Fitting only takes five minutes, as claimed in the advertising, but you then have to stick the labels onto the keys which takes considerably longer.

The price of £54.45, plus £1.15 p&p, is above average but the multitude of keys make the keyboard worth consideration. It is available direct from Saga Systems Ltd, Surrey.

See also the correction in Hardware World, December 1984.

Instant keyboard

THE NEW SPECTRUM keyboard from Stonechip Electronics is one of the few keyboards that can be fitted without opening the Spectrum.

Fitting the keyboard is simple. The top half, which houses the keys and amplifier is connected by a ribbon cable to a long, thin PCB. That has the aerial, MIC and ear plugs on one side and sockets on the other. That is plugged into the back of the Spectrum and the keyboard then screwed together with the Spectrum inside.

The keyboard has 44 keys including a full size space bar and single key entry delete and E mode. In addition there are two Reset keys.

At the top of the keyboard is the Load/Save switch which acts as the beep amplifier. There are both tone and volume controls and a good clear sound can be obtained. Also on top there is a LED to show you the power is on.

For reasons best known to Stonechip it has repositioned the MIC and power sockets. The MIC socket is 5mm nearer the user port and the power socket is placed between the two; that small alteration means that a number of add-ons will not fit.

Priced at £59.95 the keyboard is one of the more expensive available but the ease of fitting and the facilities it offers make it a good buy. Stonechip Electronics is at Aldershot, Hants.

ComCon control

ComCon interface

FREL LTD has announced its new ComCon programmable joystick interface for the Spectrum. Any key on the keyboard can be programmed, including both shift keys, and there is provision for two independent fire buttons.

The interface has arrays of pins which correspond to the keyboard and six leads representing the four directions and the two fire buttons. To program it you must plug the relevant lead into the pin you want. That can be done with a program running and the keyboard is not disabled. Any joystick with an Atari-style plug can he used. To allow for other add-ons there is an extender card which rises vertically from the front of the board.

The two joysticks that Frel markets are the Flightlink and the Quickshot II which has been adapted to have two independent fire buttons. The joystick usually has an Auto-Fire feature but that has been removed.

At £19.95, the interface is one of the cheapest on the market. The Flightlink joystick costs £10.50 and the Quickshot II is £13.95; a £2.00 reduction on either can be obtained if ordered at the same time as the interface. Further details from Frel Ltd, Shropshire.

Around with the Champ

A RECENT IMPORT from the United States is the Super Champ joystick. What makes it unusual is that the cable is held in the base. For use the cable is pulled out and, when you have finished, rotating the stick rewinds the cable inside.

The stick is long and thin and has two fire buttons, one on top and one in the trigger position, both of which operate the same switch.

Unfortunately, there is an undue amount of play in the pivot and the stick is a little stiff. That makes precise control difficult unless you hold down the centre.

The Super Champ is priced at £12.95 from Dean Electronics Ltd, Berks.

Strictly for amateurs

ANOTHER NEW add-on keyboard for the Spectrum is the K-Board from Kelwood Computer Cases. It has been designed as a direct replacement for the old 'dead flesh' original and fits onto the existing case.

Kelwood K Board

Fitting the K-Board requires major surgery to the Spectrum keyboard. Once the two halves of the Spectrum have been separated the metal cover, which has the E-mode legends on it, is removed. The difficulty of that will depend on your Spectrum. After early complaints by owners of the glue holding the cover in place melting because of the heat, Sinclair used a more powerful glue from Issue 3 onwards.

Then the rubber mat and matrix are slipped out and the new PCB containing 40 moving key switches is put in its place. Onto this is placed a plastic housing and over the complete assembly goes the metal cover.

For each of the keys you are supplied with a new key cap. Each cap is hot-foil printed in two colours, gold and red, with the key legends. Unfortunately, as the original keys were smaller there is a small gap at the sides of all keys and the caps overhang and shadow the legends on the metal cover. It is doubtful whether the printing on the keys will wear well.

At £28.50 the K-Board is the cheapest replacement keyboard for the Spectrum on the market and is worth considering if you can not afford anything else.

For your money you get a keyboard that will, however, probably invalidate your guarantee and which retains the same, cramped, layout and does not include a full size space-bar. The keys used have negligible movement, and are not, as the advertisements claim, 'beautifully printed', Neither is the replacement keyboard 'professional' in any sense of the word.

For further details of the K-Board contact Kelwood Computer Cases, Rotherham.

Easy on the eyes

BUSINESS computer users are very aware of the problems of looking at monitor screens for long periods. The resulting eyestrain has caused many firms to buy expensive filters to place over the screen.

The CEAF - Contrast Enhancement Antiglare Filter - from Romag is the first filter aimed at the home user. For £19.95, approximately half the cost of any other filter, you can protect your eyes until the last invader has been well and truly zapped.

The laminated glass filter is attached to the screen of a 14 inch monitor by four pieces of Velcro and, as well as giving a better picture, it also stops light being reflected from the screen, another cause of eyestrain. It even relieves the amount of static on the screen.

The filter is available in branches of W H Smith or direct from the manufacturers, Romag Safety Glass Ltd, Tyne-and-Wear.

Independent joystick

Delta3s joystick

VOLTMACE has launched its new joystick - the Delta 3S. Unlike most joysticks it features two independent fire buttons, one of which can be used by either left- or right-handed players, and rotary switches are used on the stick. Those switches give it a very light action and the stick can be comfortably held in the hand.

Together with the joystick Voltmace is marketing two interfaces. One, made by Rainbow Electronics, is hardware-programmable and the other, from Cambridge Computing, requires software. The Rainbow interface also incorporates a beep amplifier. The stick has a standard nine pin Atari-style plug and so will work on any interface.

Priced at £16.00 the joystick is good value and its solid construction should ensure it outlives most competitors. The Cambridge Computing interface costs £22.95 - £29.95 with joystick - and the Rainbow interface is £29.00 - £37.00 with joystick. All prices include VAT and p&p. They are available by mail order from Voltmace Ltd, Herts.

Letters Issue 31 Contents Spectrum Software Scene

Sinclair User
October 1984