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Review: Insert104 from MicroBit
By: Jason Compton
Insert104 from MicroBit
There's just no getting around it. Amiga keyboards are expensive. You
could pay upwards of US$60 or US$70 if you need to replace the keyboard to
your "big box" Amiga. Over the years, people have tried to do various
things to alleviate this problem. When expansion boxes have been built for
CD32s, they've typically superceded the option all CD32 users have to hook
up an Amiga keyboard to the AUX port in favor of giving the users a PC
keyboard port. Most recently for the rest of us, Lazarus Technologies of
Canada sold the KB-10, an affordable PC keyboard translator box. It
exhibited a rather unfortunate flaw, however, in that it tended to lock
up when the system locked up, forcing a cold reboot if you'd crashed the
machine so bad it couldn't bring up the Guru screen.
The Insert104 comes from MicroBit Research and is sold through National
Amiga of Canada. In a tiny little piece of PVC pipe cap is a small circuit
board with a microcontroller, which has been filled with epoxy. Extending
from that are two short lengths of cable--one plugs into a "Windows 95" PC
keyboard, the other plugs into the keyboard port of a 2000, 3000(T), or 4000T
(A4000 and CD32 users need a small adapter). You can use an older, 101-key
PC keyboard but it's far less convenient.
The Insert104 maps the Amiga keyboard onto the PC keyboard rather well, now
that PC keyboards have "left and right Windows" keys. The "menu" key flips
through screens (a rather handy function) and a couple of keys not used on
the Amiga keyboard are pressed into service as well. No trouble.
So far I really haven't been able to find anything wrong with the
Insert104. I do have to say I liked the KB-10's feature of using the
Insert and Delete keys to flip forward and back through screens, but the
use of the menu button to flip forward somewhat makes up for it. (Numlock
flips you back, but that doesn't seem as intuitive).
Now, I like my Amiga keyboard just fine but it's heavy and expensive to
replace. PC keyboards, on the other hand, tend to be very light and
they're exceptionally cheap. From consumer surplus catalogs, I've seen PC
keyboards for US$15, and undoubtedly somebody's seen them elsewhere for
less. The Insert104 sells for CDN$40, or about US$29. That means that
replacing your Amiga keyboard is rather cheaper with an Insert104 and PC
keyboard, and of course replacing THAT keyboard will be cheaper still. I
highly recomment the Insert104 if your keyboard is starting to get flaky.