USEFUL KEYBOARD SPOILED BY POOR DESIGN
D'KTRONICS new keyboard for the Spectrum provides an ABS plastic case which contains the computer as well as providing a 40-key keyboard and a numeric pad. The keyboard keys are a dull grey with clear plastic, stick-on transfers. The numeric keypad is numbered from 9 down to 0, at the bottom, in a 3 by 4 high matrix, the other two keys being CAPS SHIFT and SYMBOL SHIFT. Those being next to each other means that a single finger can be used to get into "E" mode.
The tops are dished and have a solid feel to them, even if they are noisy to use. The plastic transfers, however, tend to wear out after long use. The shift keys are usually the first to suffer. Also red symbols on grey keys do not show very clearly, as Sinclair soon discovered.
The computer is easy enough to fit inside the case; you unscrew the case and remove the printed circuit board, re-screwing it on some pillars inside the case using the same screws. The keyboard connectors are two plugs which go into the keyboard sockets very easily.
An area with posts is set aside for the power-pack board, which also must be removed from its case. The instructions then say a bolt or two must be used to hold it in place. No bolts or holes in the case are provided and no safe position on the printed circuit board exists for bolts, Either the company should drop that as a facility or provide some better method of securing the power supply before someone does some damage.
There is a simple solution. Four upright projections are moulded into the case which go through holes in the printed circuit board. If several turns of insulating tape are wound over those poles - the number of turns can be found by experiment - when the power supply is pushed down over the poles the insulating tape compresses into tight washers above and below the board, holding it into position.
All the wiring should be kept neat and away from the computer board, though the +9 volt plug will have to be taken outside the case to plug into the socket on the computer. Holes are provided in the back for the TV socket, tape sockets, power socket and expansion connector.
One problem with the last item is that some add-ons will not fit, due to the slope on the back of the keyboard case. That means that some items which plugged into the edge connector have their cases stopped about 4in. away from where they should be, by the edge of the case.
That means that the edge connector does not connect with the device. It should be corrected immediately. It can be solved by cutting away the protection under the expansion port for at least the whole length of the edge connector. Microdrives and Interface One cannot be connected to a Spectrum in this type of case without a massive cutting-out of the back of the case.
It is a pity that the keyboard and case is spoiled by moderate design. A little more thought about adding things to the Spectrum would have made a much better product.
D'KTronics is at Unit 2, Shire Hill Industrial Estate, Saffron Waldron, Essex CB11 3AX. Tel: 0799-23650/22359. The cost of the keyboard is £46.25.