WITH AN estimated 1.5 million Spectrums still in rubber keyboards, and more being produced for the overseas market, add-on keyboards are still selling well. The latest to be released is the Lazer 62 from Micro Board.
The 62 stands for the number of keys, the original 40 plus an extra 22 single key functions. Other extras are proper moving keys, not a membrane as on the Spectrum Plus, a full-sized space bar and a built in on/off switch.
Those extras are not without cost, £59.95 to be precise, and one or two corners have been cut in the manufacture. Despite that, if you are careful when assembling it, it has a lot to offer in this already crowded market.
Assembly entails removing the circuit board from the Spectrum and then clipping it into the base. The top of the keyboard is made of plastic, with a suitable area to rest your hands when typing, but the base is metal and that presents the first problem.
As the keyboard is very thin, standing just over 4cm high, there is very little clearance between the PCB and the base. Although there is one strip of plastic tape as an insulator that only covers a small area and it is not totally adequate. For piece of mind on the review model I added many yards of sticky tape.
The keyboard proper is clipped above the PCB, again a tight fit, and the top of the case over that. That is problem number two. On the review model the casing fouled the keys so that some of them would not spring back after they had been pressed. A few minutes with a sharp knife cured this.
Once the keyboard is screwed together you then have to stick the legends on the keys, with 62 keys a long job. Later models should have a better fitting case and re-designed legends, the current ones being printed all in white.
Where the keyboard scores is the multitude of extra keys. Those are $#()"-+;:=,./* plus four shifted cursor keys, E mode, delete, Edit and Caps Lock. Unlike many keyboards with single key functions it will still work with programs that use Interrupt Mode 2 - such as Beta Basic.
With the availability of the Spectrum Plus upgrade - see elsewhere in Hardware World - at £20.00 the Lazer 62 represents a hefty investment, but if you want proper keys it has much to offer. The keys have a reasonable feel and a spot of grease works wonders.
Further details from Micro Board International, The School House, Station Approach, Woking, Surrey GU22 7UY. Tel: 04862 24567.