A month of setbacks
Deep breath: This update will start with let downs. What should have been a month of wrap-ups, turned out to be four weeks of disappointments with little to no progress on the keyboard.
Last month (February) we got the keyboard to a final state with a hand-assembled prototype, with a few minor tweaks requested before getting a small batch produced by the automated assembly line. These tweaks included a lighter press ‘Enter’ key, longer contact strips and 3mm screws rather than 2.5mm.
While we got all these changes made and two new keyboards were shipped to us and validated on all these fixes, they were also hand-assembled rather than produced by the automated assembly line as the final product will be. Because of this, we’re still waiting for automated samples to give the final go-ahead for the keyboard production, when we should have done so three or four weeks ago.
The silver lining is that we baked six weeks into the forecast of delivering the Nexts to the backers by the end of Q2 (June), so this delay doesn’t change the shipping date. Still, a very disappointing month where we were hoping the Next keyboard and case would enter full production, followed by overseas shipping to the assembly plant in Nottingham.
We’re now expecting the automated keyboard to be done in the next couple of weeks, then trigger the production.
You might be asking ‘why do we need automated assembly line samples to validate the keyboard into full production?’ and that’s a good question indeed, as all the parts used in the hand-assembled are the same parts used in the automated line, thus no variance should be expected -- except on the keyboard silicone domes placement.
The Next keyboard matrix (the contacts layer) have composite contacts for special keys such as arrows, Break, Edit, True Video etc. In order for these to work well (ie. register the key press of two keys at the same time to achieve the composite result, such as Shift and 2 for Caps Lock) the silicone dome that lies on top of the matrix has to be perfectly centered. If it’s a bit to one side, it will register the press of Shift+2 in the wrong order (such as 2+Shift), resulting in ‘2’ rather than Caps Lock. Only the automated assembly can achieve the precision required, the hand-assembled samples do not produce 100% accurate key presses as the domes can be glued to the matrix misaligned by human hands.
The keyboard manufacturer promised us a quick turnaround now, we’re on top of them to make sure this happens fast so we can move on to full production. All that’s left for us is to apologise for this letdown and double our ‘is it ready?’ requests rate to the engineers at the factory.
Next discord channel
Michael ‘Flash Ware’ at Rusty Pixel (and also a FB Next community moderator) has set up a discord for all things Next. Jump into it via the invitation and meet like-minded Next people without Zuckerberg snooping on you.
Dave Flynn, in partnership with Dominion Games, announced Abductor on the FB group last week. While the details on gameplay and game universe are scarce, the screenshot speaks volumes: it looks incredible, with an original Speccy flair, but taking advantage of new video modes. Keep an eye open for this game!
Next on Twitch
For the first time (at least that we know of), the Next hardware was used to stream live to Twitch without using a camera to capture. With an Elgato HD 60 S, Asger Bonnevie managed to stream real video at digital quality -- check out the stream here.
Peter Ped Helcmanovsky updated the Assembly Editor sjasmplus to version 1.11, including support for the new features of the Core 2.00.26. Check out the Github repository for builds for Windows, Mac and Linux.
Next Pentagon mode on CRT
Franco Bronda attached a Sony TV to the Next using a CRT cable, and went straight to demos of the Pentagon 128 mode showing correct timings for the demos’ effects. Worth watching, there’s so much good stuff for the Pentagon that not everyone outside of East Europe knows of…
Daniel Lopez’s re-imagination of Qbert for the Next is close to completion, and he posted a new video of the game in action. Check out how’s it looking like -- eager to find out how it plays too! Follow the game’s progress here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/dlogames/
POWER BLADE: Delta’s Shadow
Evgeniy Suhomlin updated POWER BLADE with a video on YouTube showing the racing level, featuring the hero on top of a hoverbike inside parallax tunnels that are a show on their own.
And that's it for this update... The original plan was to headline with big neon-lit 'Production started!', but it just didn't happen this time around. Hopefully we'll be able to get this headline posted shortly, though -- or we'll storm a keyboard factory 'Stallone Cobra' style.