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Saga Systems Ltd
Not Known
1987
Hardware: Keyboard
£119.95
Unknown (Imported From Infoseek)
Not Applicable
Undetermined

Other Links


86
John Lambert
Chris Bourne

YOU'LL BELIEVE A KEYBOARD CAN FLY

Ever since the launch of the Spectrum, people have complained about its keyboard. Not surprisingly the add-on keyboard market boomed to such an extent that even Sinclair joined in and brought out the Spectrum Plus, simply a rubber-key Spectrum in a 'better' box.

Now Saga, that doyen of keyboard manufacturers, has released its latest - and possibly its greatest - keyboard.

The Saga 2001 keyboard can only be described as completely over the top. Forty seven centimeters long, 99 printed keys and if that isn't enough, it connects to the Spectrum via an infra-red link. You can type away at the keyboard and have the TV so far away that you can't even read it.

Saga has attempted to produce, and arguably succeeded, the ultimate word processing keyboard. And to press home the point it even supplies a copy of it's word-pro package The Last Word with it.

Even without the infra-red gimmick, the 2001 is a good keyboard for typing. The main block of 49 keys is laid out with all the punctuation keys on the right - like a typewriter - with a separate numeric pad to the right of this and a row of 20 function keys along the top.

The confusion starts, though, when you try to program using it. The 2001 hasn't got a Symbol Shift key, let alone an E mode key. Although many of the Symbol Shifted keys are available as single keys, many more, and nearly all the E Mode keys, are put on to twenty function keys at the top.

To get it all on, each function key has four functions, reached by a combination of just pressing the key, using Caps Shift, or pressing the left-most function key first and then the key. None of the key sequences required appear to match the original Sinclair keyboard. Do you remember how long it took you to remember where all the functions were when you first got your Spectrum? It's like learning them all over again.

This lack of an E Mode key also creates difficulties with some programs. In Tasword II for example, where you use E Mode to reach the alternate functions, without such a key you have to trick the keyboard into thinking you've pressed it by using one of the E Mode punctuation keys first. These keys also have to be pressed twice - once to get the character, and once more to get out of E Mode.

Load up a game and you have another problem. The keyboard works by registering a key press and translating it into the necessary sequence of key presses to simulate it. For example press Function Key 20 and you get the keyword Usr. This one press has to be translated into the sequence: hold Symbol Shift, press Caps Shift, release both, press L.

When the infra-red receiver is plugged in, the Spectrum's keyboard is automatically disabled so you can't even use that as a back-up.

This receiver, a largish white and grey box, sits comfortably on top of the Spectrum. On the first production run of 2001s it connects to the Spectrum via a cable and box which goes into the edge connector. This fouls the power socket and so will be replaced on subsequent models.

On the model I received this box was dead-ended, that is, there was no through connector for other add-ons. This may change on the later models, if not you will need a two-way adapter if you want to plug in a printer interface. Most mass storage devices, though, such as Interface One or the Technology Research Beta disc interface, have through connectors so they can be fitted without additions. Both, incidentally, work happily with the 2001.

The keyboard itself and infra-red link is battery powered, using a rechargeable battery. For recharging a lead is supplied which connects to the receiver, the power coming from the Spectrum.

A version of the 2001 for the 128K Spectrum is also planned.

So what's it like to use? Very good, once you've got used to it. The keys are a little heavy compared to other Spectrum add-on keyboards, but very positive and the best I've used to date. For word processing the layout is as close to a normal typewriter as you'll find and, after all, 99 per cent of the time you use the letter/punctuation keys rather than the function keys.

For programming and arcade games - adventure games are largely text entry - the keyboard does leave a little to be desired, largely because of the E Mode problem.

The keyboard is definitely aimed at the dedicated, serious user who is just as likely to own a program such as Beta Basic, which allows keywords to be typed out in full.

All you have to do now is scrape together the £119.95 to pay for it.

The one thing it isn't is cheap.

Saga Systems, 2 Eve Road, Woking. Surrey GU21 4JT. Tel: 04862 22977.

Not Rated

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Additional keys

Graphics, Edit, Caps Lock, Shift, Delete plus four shifted cursor keys

Punctuation keys

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Shifted punctuation keys

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