First of all, apologies for the two extra weeks between the updates -- but only now we’ve finally got keyboard news worth sharing, including next steps towards finishing the keyboard.
With the keys samples in hand (see previous update), Phil proceeded to test them back in Cambridge. The way we do this is quite simple: we attach the keys to an existing template keyboard with the same mechanism that is used in the Spectrum Next’s keyboard.
The most important feedback here is that the key format feels incredible good -- in fact, even the keyboard manufacturer, a specialist in keyboards with years of experience and dozens of models under their belt -- praised how good the Next keys feel to the touch, and how accurate the keyboard becomes with the key shape compared to a typical, modern keyboard.
Let this sink in for a second… Keyboard experts in 2018 are saying that the original key shape developed by Rick back in 1984, when paired with modern mechanics and engineering, is better to the touch than the key shapes we use in most keyboards today. Yep.
With the good news in hand, it’s feedback time to our manufacturer friends. The first issue Phil detected was an injection mark on the top of the keys, seen at an angle. This has to do with a width discrepancy of 0.15mm of some of the keys’ notches. With the wider notch, a depression appears on top of the square keys that is perceptible at an angle depending on light incidence.
Note that this is visible in the unpolished finish, which is not the final finish: the keys are meant to be polished in that part, thus the depression would become even more apparent, particularly with several keys in a row.
Our friends got the feedback and proceeded to fix the issue, and sent us back today pics of the new injected keys, now with the polished finish to its surroundings, showing that the distortion seems to be gone. These new keys are now flying to Cambridge for Phil’s final appraisal and go-ahead.
In parallel to the keys’ work, the manufacturer gave the greenlight to the keyboard metal backplate for the final assembly, and the keyboard plastic frame molding, so the final keyboard can be shortly assembled and tested with the case prior to the greenlight to mass-injection, assembly and dispatch to SMS in Nottingham.
This should hopefully now run smoother and quicker, with the keyboard assembled for our next update!
Case extra care
In parallel to the keyboard work, Phil revisited one aspect of the case to make double-sure that mass-injection wouldn’t result in the warping we have seen in the past and solved with extra structures. Following a meeting with a few colleagues experts in plastic molding and injection, Phil decided to thicken a bit the upper case by 0.7mm in certain areas, allowing for the plastic to flow better during injection and giving it even more resilience upon mold extraction. As the saying goes: ‘better safe than sorry’, and since we had the time to act on this so it has been.
The next steps ahead of us now are to get the keyboard assembled, fitted neatly into the reviewed case, get both mass-injected, assembled and flown over to the SMS plant for final assembly and dispatch.
A couple of steps closer now!
Blackpool Play Expo
For those of you lucky enough to have visited Blackpool Play Expo, Jim Bagley took a Spectrum Next case and box to show people in the flesh. But if you missed it, make sure to visit the FB group where Jim appears in quite a few of pictures of the event, plus playables of Monkey McGee and Baggers in Space! ;)
Shoutout for a new group, Gaming on the Spectrum Next, focused on the upcoming games for our machine.
And that’s it for now, folks… Again, sorry for the lateness of this update: Next update shortly as soon as more news on the keyboard are in!