THE replacement keyboard for the Spectrum from Kappa Keyboards is a curious mixture of new and old ideas. It uses a style of key that was popular among DIY enthusiasts a few years ago and yet it has 14 single key functions, a recent innovation in keyboard design.
The keycaps are of transparent plastic and you are supplied with a sheet of paper on which the legends are printed. That has to be cut up and the legends placed under the caps.
The extra single key functions are Edit, Delete, Comma, Full Stop, Dollar, Times, Graphics Mode and Caps Lock which toggle on and off, four shifted Cursor keys and True and inverse Video. The last six are particularly useful with Tasword II, using the cursor keys to move around the text and the video keys to move one word at a time - an idea reproduced on the new Spectrum+. In addition there are extra Caps Shift and Symbol Shift keys, but, there is no E Mode key, a major omission.
It is supplied as a replacement for the top half of the Spectrum. You remove the five screws holding the Spectrum together, disconnect the keyboard leads, insert the new leads and screw the case back together. The new leads are, unusually, ribbon cable with half the insulation removed, and so they will not stand repeated insertion.
With all the extra keys and the limited space available the keyboard is very cramped. Despite that Kappa still manages to find space to bring the Address and Data lines to the top of the keyboard via two IC sockets placed either side of the keys. The company sells an additional adapter which converts them to take a joystick. The left hand socket simulates 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 and the right hand one 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0, as used on Interface 2.
For £48.00 the keyboard has much to offer in facilities but it falls down badly in key layout, feel and looks. If it used better keys and was housed in a bigger case then it would be one of the best keyboards on the market.
There may be, however, a solution to the problem. Kappa can also supply a small electrical package at £14.00 to which you can wire your own keys. That allows you to have functions which normally require a shift key to be replaced by a single key.
Further details of those products can be obtained from Kappa Keyboards, 14 Pauls Mead, Portland, Dorset DT5 1JZ.