Sunday, 17 November 2019

C=key adapter 3.0a quick look

About a year ago, I had a go at rigging an Arduino to work as a PS/2 adapter. That adapter is working, but the software needed patching. I got it into semi-decent state but it still leaves a lot to be desired. (Shift+cursor keys etc work a bit randomly.)

In the meantime, I also ordered this ready-made solution from Retro Innovations, the C=key 3.0A.

Apart from modest soldering skill you will need some sense in building electronics, as the (not included) instructions need some deciphering. But if you follow them step-to-step precisely it should come out good. I guess you can also order them soldered. I perhaps wanted to avoid having the PS/2 connector positioned, but as it turns out it was a better idea to use that part anyway.

The board has provisions for both female & male 20-pin connector. I could have avoided soldering the other part in, had I given it a bit more thought.

Because there was a capacitor in the way, I could not fit the board directly on the C64. So I went for a long-ish drive cable. I once found a bunch of these from a flea market.

Bonus points for including proper holes in the board for easy attachment in your own projects. I'm not yet sure where I'll use this.

The adapter worked at the first attempt. My impressions were that this is much smoother and bug-free than that DIY board.

But it turns out this C=key adapter is not without problems either.

Although the key mapping felt great at first, I soon found the cursor keys did not work. Then I learned I need to change the keymapping style. I can enter the "menu" by pressing CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE.


1. C64 Symbolic
2. C64 Positional
3. C128 Symbolic
4. C128 Positional

(CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE exits the menu.)

Using selection 1. (C64 Positional) the cursor keys started working and all keys are mapped according to the PC keyboard. ...according to an US keyboard, that is. Sigh! So the keys work but everything is in an alien place.

While testing the keyboard I sometimes came up with gibberish. I also managed to get the adapter locked quite easily, which often followed from pressing Return, but other keys too. Using the CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE combo a few times the adapter recovered.

The site does say "This is still considered a project, not a complete product. I’ll try to help with issues, but it’s still a work in progress."

I did clean the adapter up and wiggled the cables a bit and got a better response out of it. Who knows, it might be my soldering and construction was a bit botched. I'll have to make sure the board and the cable do not move when pressing the keys.

These were of course the very initial responses to this adapter, and further examination should reveal how well it works in the long run. Possibly, a PS/2 to C64 keyboard adapter is a device that simply cannot be made to work 100% reliably and in a satisfying way, but this is already quite good.

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