AFTER a slight hiccup AGF has now relaunched its Protocol 4 progammable joystick interface for the Spectrum. The original version was not compatible with all Kempston compatible games but that has now been cured.
A novel method is used to program the interface. You are supplied with five small plastic cards, four of which are already set up. Those cards contain a series of holes which represent the Address and Data lines as used by the Spectrum keyboard. Small rubberised pads are then inserted in the holes, one per line per key, according to a chart supplied, until the four directions, and fire, have been programmed.
The card is then inserted in the interface so that the rubber pads press down in a membrane, similar to that used on the Spectrum key- board. The four preprogrammed cards simulate the 5, 6, 7, 8 and 0 keys, the 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 or 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0 Interface 2 keys. The remaining card simulates the Kempston standard.
That process may appear rather complicated but it only has to be done once. AGF supply ten reference cards on which you can note the positions of the rubber pads and can supply additional plastic cards so you can keep a stock of preprogrammable cards. The cards can be changed while a program is running, if you are careful not to joggle the interface, and the keyboard is not disabled.
On the pre-production version tested, the expansion port had not been carried through to the back of the interface, but AGF plans to do that on later models. It did have a useful reset button on the top of the interface and the ability to use joysticks with the Auto-Rapid Fire feature.
There are, however, some reservations about the interface. A membrane has a limited life. Also the cards sometimes fail to locate properly so that only two of the four directions worked. That could be cured by being heavy-handed when inserting them but should not be necessary. The greatest problem is the speed of response. When the keyboard is simulated there is a delay between moving the stick and something happening. When playing a game that could mean the difference between getting zapped or living to fight another day.
Overall, the interface has much to offer but fails to deliver. For more details contact AGF, 26 Van Gogh Place, Bognor Regis, West Sussex PO22 9BY.