• one of worst keyboards ever is now an arduino peripheral

    From Retrograde@fungus@amongus.com.invalid to comp.misc on Tue Oct 25 12:30:53 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    From the «mmmmembrane» department:
    Feed: Hackaday
    Title: One Of The Worst Keyboards Ever, Now An Arduino Peripheral
    Author: Jenny List
    Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2022 01:00:20 -0400
    Link: https://hackaday.com/2022/10/24/one-of-the-worst-keyboards-ever-now-an-arduino-peripheral/

    [image 1]

    For British kids of a certain age, their first experience of a computer was very
    likely to have been in front of a Sinclair ZX81. The lesser-known predecessor to
    the wildly-successful ZX Spectrum, it came in at under £100 and sported a Z80 processor and a whopping 1k of memory. In the long tradition of Sinclair products it had a few compromises to achieve that price point, the most obvious of which was a 40-key membrane keyboard. Those who learned to code on its frustrating lack of tactile feedback may be surprised to see an Arduino project presenting it as the perfect way to easily hook up a keyboard to an Arduino[2].

    Like many retrocomputing parts, the ZX81 ‘board has been re-manufactured, to the
    joy of many a Sinclair enthusiast. It’s thus readily available and relatively cheap (we think they can be found for less than the stated 20 euros!), so surprisingly it’s a reasonable choice for an Arduino project. The task of trying
    to define by touch the imperceptible difference in thickness of a ZX81 key will bring a true retrocomputing experience to a new generation. Perhaps if it can be
    done on an Mbed[3] then someone might even make a ZX81 emulator on the Arduino.

    We’re great fans of the ZX81 here at Hackaday[4], for some of us it was that first computer. Long may it continue to delight its fans!

    Links:
    [1]: https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/zxkeys-arduino-featured.jpg?w=800 (image)
    [2]: https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub/sl001/read-a-zx81-keyboard-with-arduinos-and-build-things-with-it-0189bd (link)
    [3]: https://hackaday.com/2014/12/22/zx81-emulated-on-an-mbed/ (link)
    [4]: https://hackaday.com/2020/04/01/accurate-dispensing-of-toilet-paper-will-get-us-through-the-crisis/ (link)
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    Usenet: antisocial media
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  • From Ian McCall@ian@eruvia.org to comp.misc on Sat Oct 29 11:48:27 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    On 25 Oct 2022, Retrograde wrote
    (in article <tj8kts$tgo$1@solani.org>):


    For British kids of a certain age, their first experience of a computer was very likely to have been in front of a Sinclair ZX81.
    I was banned from using the school ZX81 for, and I quote, “not treating the computer with respect”. I was trying to get the damned keyboard to work...

    Cheers,
    Ian


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  • From Sylvia Else@sylvia@email.invalid to comp.misc on Sun Oct 30 19:46:14 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    On 25-Oct-22 11:30 pm, Retrograde wrote:
    From the «mmmmembrane» department:
    Feed: Hackaday
    Title: One Of The Worst Keyboards Ever, Now An Arduino Peripheral
    Author: Jenny List
    Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2022 01:00:20 -0400
    Link: https://hackaday.com/2022/10/24/one-of-the-worst-keyboards-ever-now-an-arduino-peripheral/

    [image 1]

    For British kids of a certain age, their first experience of a computer was very
    likely to have been in front of a Sinclair ZX81. The lesser-known predecessor to
    the wildly-successful ZX Spectrum, it came in at under £100 and sported a Z80
    processor and a whopping 1k of memory. In the long tradition of Sinclair products it had a few compromises to achieve that price point, the most obvious
    of which was a 40-key membrane keyboard. Those who learned to code on its frustrating lack of tactile feedback may be surprised to see an Arduino project
    presenting it as the perfect way to easily hook up a keyboard to an Arduino[2].

    Like many retrocomputing parts, the ZX81 ‘board has been re-manufactured, to the
    joy of many a Sinclair enthusiast. It’s thus readily available and relatively
    cheap (we think they can be found for less than the stated 20 euros!), so surprisingly it’s a reasonable choice for an Arduino project. The task of trying
    to define by touch the imperceptible difference in thickness of a ZX81 key will
    bring a true retrocomputing experience to a new generation. Perhaps if it can be
    done on an Mbed[3] then someone might even make a ZX81 emulator on the Arduino.

    We’re great fans of the ZX81 here at Hackaday[4], for some of us it was that
    first computer. Long may it continue to delight its fans!

    Links:
    [1]: https://hackaday.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/zxkeys-arduino-featured.jpg?w=800 (image)
    [2]: https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub/sl001/read-a-zx81-keyboard-with-arduinos-and-build-things-with-it-0189bd (link)
    [3]: https://hackaday.com/2014/12/22/zx81-emulated-on-an-mbed/ (link)
    [4]: https://hackaday.com/2020/04/01/accurate-dispensing-of-toilet-paper-will-get-us-through-the-crisis/ (link)



    Anything would be better than the "keyboard" of a smart-phone.

    Sylvia
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  • From Rich@rich@example.invalid to comp.misc on Sun Oct 30 12:58:15 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    Sylvia Else <sylvia@email.invalid> wrote:
    On 25-Oct-22 11:30 pm, Retrograde wrote:
    From the mmmmembrane department:
    Feed: Hackaday
    Title: One Of The Worst Keyboards Ever, Now An Arduino Peripheral
    Author: Jenny List
    Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2022 01:00:20 -0400
    Link: https://hackaday.com/2022/10/24/one-of-the-worst-keyboards-ever-now-an-arduino-peripheral/

    [image 1]

    Like many retrocomputing parts, the ZX81 ?board has been
    re-manufactured, to the joy of many a Sinclair enthusiast. It?s
    thus readily available and relatively cheap (we think they can be
    found for less than the stated 20 euros!), so surprisingly it?s a
    reasonable choice for an Arduino project. The task of trying to
    define by touch the imperceptible difference in thickness of a ZX81
    key will bring a true retrocomputing experience to a new generation.
    Perhaps if it can be done on an Mbed[3] then someone might even make
    a ZX81 emulator on the Arduino.

    Anything would be better than the "keyboard" of a smart-phone.

    Well, if one had ever used a ZX81 keyboard, it just might rank as
    'worse' (not by a lot, but yes, worse) than a smartphone keyboard.

    The membrane keys needed rather significant pressure to even activate,
    and even then, many times it took more than one try to get the key to
    register as having been pressed if I recall correctly.

    A smart phone keyboard, of the same physical size, at the time, would
    have likely been quite superior in that the only issue would have been
    finger hitting wrong key. And even then, if the phyiscal size of the
    "smart phone keyboard" were the same as the ZX's keyboard, the keys
    would have been "finger sized" so hitting the wrong key would have been minimized vs. many smart phones where each key is, at best, 1/3 to 1/2
    finger size.

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  • From Ian McCall@ian@eruvia.org to comp.misc on Sun Oct 30 16:22:42 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    On 30 Oct 2022, Rich wrote
    (in article <tjlsd7$5om0$2@dont-email.me>):

    Anything would be better than the "keyboard" of a smart-phone.

    Well, if one had ever used a ZX81 keyboard, it just might rank as
    'worse' (not by a lot, but yes, worse) than a smartphone keyboard.

    The membrane keys needed rather significant pressure to even activate,
    and even then, many times it took more than one try to get the key to register as having been pressed if I recall correctly.

    It was -way- worse than a smart phone. Massively so. More like the keyboard
    of a pocket calculator than what you’d think of as a computer today.

    A few other micros did it, the Atari...err..400? from memory. (Might be 600, can’t recall). But even those monstrosities were ahead of the ZX81. But then, they cost a lot more too. The ZX81 was a serious enabler of home computing and ushered in the UK revolution really. Its predecessor, the ZX80, came in kit form only and needed to be built. The ZX81 was effectively a
    fully assembled ZX80.

    Cheers,
    Ian


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  • From Rich@rich@example.invalid to comp.misc on Sun Oct 30 18:46:03 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    Ian McCall <ian@eruvia.org> wrote:
    On 30 Oct 2022, Rich wrote
    (in article <tjlsd7$5om0$2@dont-email.me>):

    Anything would be better than the "keyboard" of a smart-phone.

    Well, if one had ever used a ZX81 keyboard, it just might rank as
    'worse' (not by a lot, but yes, worse) than a smartphone keyboard.

    The membrane keys needed rather significant pressure to even activate,
    and even then, many times it took more than one try to get the key to
    register as having been pressed if I recall correctly.

    It was -way- worse than a smart phone. Massively so. More like the keyboard of a pocket calculator than what you?d think of as a computer today.

    Actually, most pocket calculators had significantly better keyboards
    than the ZX keyboard.

    A few other micros did it, the Atari...err..400? from memory. (Might be 600, can?t recall).

    Atari 400 is correct. But the 400's membrane keyboard, while not as
    good as a keyboard with real keyswitches, was much better than the ZX keyboards. Had one of those too, so I know from experience it was
    improved vs. the ZX keyboards.

    But even those monstrosities were ahead of the ZX81. But then, they
    cost a lot more too. The ZX81 was a serious enabler of home
    computing and ushered in the UK revolution really. Its predecessor,
    the ZX80, came in kit form only and needed to be built.

    There were pre-assembled ZX80's, at least in the US. I know because a pre-assembled ZX80 was my first home computer, circa 1980-1981. Which
    is also how I know how terrible the keyboard on the ZX80 was, as I
    actually used it. Although at ~ 13yo, the wonder of having a computer,
    even with a keyboard as terrible as the one on the ZX, outweighed the terribleness of the keyboard.

    The ZX81 was effectively a fully assembled ZX80.

    Well, no. The ZX80 was offered as both a kit and a pre-assembled
    version (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zx80). And while the ZX81 was
    very similar, it was packaged in a very different housing, and most
    likely used a different circuit board layout (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zx81).

    Looking over the wikipedia pages cited above they indicate that the
    ZX80 was built from TTL chips, while the ZX81 was built from a Z80, a
    ROM, and a single custom chip. So very different circuit designs
    inside between both.
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  • From scott@scott@alfter.diespammersdie.us to comp.misc on Mon Oct 31 17:10:42 2022
    From Newsgroup: comp.misc

    Rich <rich@example.invalid> wrote:
    Sylvia Else <sylvia@email.invalid> wrote:
    On 25-Oct-22 11:30 pm, Retrograde wrote:
    From the «mmmmembrane» department:
    Feed: Hackaday
    Title: One Of The Worst Keyboards Ever, Now An Arduino Peripheral
    Author: Jenny List
    Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2022 01:00:20 -0400
    Link: https://hackaday.com/2022/10/24/one-of-the-worst-keyboards-ever-now-an-arduino-peripheral/

    [image 1]

    Like many retrocomputing parts, the ZX81 ?board has been
    re-manufactured, to the joy of many a Sinclair enthusiast. It?s
    thus readily available and relatively cheap (we think they can be
    found for less than the stated 20 euros!), so surprisingly it?s a
    reasonable choice for an Arduino project. The task of trying to
    define by touch the imperceptible difference in thickness of a ZX81
    key will bring a true retrocomputing experience to a new generation.
    Perhaps if it can be done on an Mbed[3] then someone might even make
    a ZX81 emulator on the Arduino.

    Anything would be better than the "keyboard" of a smart-phone.

    Well, if one had ever used a ZX81 keyboard, it just might rank as
    'worse' (not by a lot, but yes, worse) than a smartphone keyboard.

    I had a Palm Treo 650 for a few years...last in a succession of PalmOS
    devices, and the only one that had a phone, making it arguably a smartphone that predated the iPhone and Android devices. It had a three-row mechanical keypad at the bottom that was quite nice for entering text. It was even
    fairly easy to replace when I spilled a beer and kiled a few keys.

    I had relatively limited experience with the ZX81 back in the day, but I
    think it's safe to say it definitely had a worse keyboard than the Treo.
    Even the membrane keyboard of the Atari 400 was more usable, with full-size buttons and a click from the speaker for feedback when you pressed one.

    As for the ZX81 vs. modern touchscreen smartphone keyboards, the latter
    usually come out on top...at least until autocucumber gets in the way. :)
    --
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