EEEEK! IT'S A MOUSE
Not so long ago, if you were caught talking about mice with toolkits you were marked as a mental incompetent, fit only for the Presidency of the United States or the editorship of a Commodore magazine. But in this business, the ravings of deranged minds have a habit of turning into hardware. Nobody's suggesting that anyone at Kempston is anything other than completely sane, but they have produced a mouse. With, ahem, a toolkit.
The mouse in question is, of course, a pointing device. A small plastic wedge with a large ball, two buttons and a long bit of wire; if you plug it into your Spectrum (using the equipment provided) and push it about on a flat surface then the pointer follows its every move on the screen. Inside the mouse are a couple of wheels (that'll surprise the vet), one of these wheels generates pulses when the mouse moves up and down, the other senses sideways sliding. The interface counts the pulses, the Spectrum reads the count and follows the mouse. Make a good lager slogan, that...
But what about the toolkit? When the Spectrum ROM was written in 1982, The Human League were in fashion (ask your father) and mice were small and furry with a cheese fixation. So to interface the hardware to BASIC and to start to use the thing, some extra software is needed. This is where the toolkit comes in. It comes on tape and loads in the usual way. Plus 3 owners will be beside themselves to realise that the toolkit transfers to disk without even a sniff problem.
Plug in the interface, plug in the mouse, switch on the Speccy and load the software. Now what? Well, the toolkit adds some useful extra commands to BASIC to control windows, icons and the mouse itself. Since the software works with every Spectrum, it doesn't try to be too clever and all the extra functions are accessed by the old LET X = USR routine. A little crude these days, but it works perfectly well.
Routines included are SETUP (to put a window or icon on screen), MOVE (move the pointer on screen). REMOVE (window cleaning) and HIGH (highlight some text). All good stuff; a little basic, but enough to produce quite a reasonable program that shows off just what the beastie can do. There are also a couple of additional programs included on the tape, a demo routine (very pretty) and an icon definer that lets you build up your own pictures.
The manual explains things clearly. There really isn't a lot to say about a mouse, especially one as well-designed as the Kempston rodent, so the manual's twenty pages are more than adequate; there is sufficient information to allow rabid machine coders to use the mouse as well, either from the toolkit or in the raw. And of course any Kempston mouse-compatible drawing program will work.
The hardware is impeccable - it's a pleasure to play with a mouse like this. Built by a Swiss concern called Logitech (regarded by many as the finest mousers in the business) it is one of the best seen in captivity. There are worse mice included in £10,000 computer design systems.
Mice is mice is mice, but building nice mice needs mouse nous. Kempston have it, and it shows. Another recommendation, people.