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                        Review: Topolino from Raach
                             By:  Jason Compton 
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Right now, I'm using a Pyramid three-button Amiga mouse, which I pressed
into service about two years ago.  Some people don't like the flatness of
the Pyramid mice, but I'm pretty happy with it.  I've dropped it on the
hard floor many, many times.  The plastic clips which help hold it together
have broken with the abuse, although the screws are still in place.  The
mouse works fine, but one of these days it's going to die.  The Pyramid
mouse isn't being made anymore--in fact, rather few Amiga mice are.  What
there is in terms of selection isn't bad, but if you have a special need or
are looking for something other than your basic black or white, you're
pretty much stuck.

On the other hand, the PC market has churned out just about every kind of
mouse you'd ever want to see.  All sorts of different shapes and sizes,
lots of trackballs and remote control mice and other toys.  These are
generally off limits to Amiga users, since they work on PC serial ports.
Hacks and a commercial product or two exist to let you use a PC serial
mouse on your Amiga serial port, but of course that means giving up your
Amiga serial port.  Very few of us have more than just the one, and
besides, they all require special drivers, making them useless unless
you're running under Workbench.

The Topolino changes all that.  A small silver project box is all that's
entailed, with a microcontroller and not much else inside.  The whole
affair is only a few inches long, but plug it in to any Amiga mouse port
and you instantly have access to just about any PC mouse-type device there
is.  No configuration or software support required, the mice are instantly
as much a part of the Amiga as a standard-issue boxy A500 mouse is.

I didn't personally use any of the more esoteric PC mice with the Topolino
but I did witness a demonstration: a Topolino was hooked up to the VIScorp
ED prototype box Jim Goodnow brought with him to the St. Louis Amiga show
this past March, and a Logitech hand-held remote control trackball was used
in the demonstration of the machine.  Both were quite interesting.

For my part, I experimented with a few varieties of PC mouse.  One, a
cheapie from a no-name clone company, exhibited an oddity which the
Topolino's creator, Stefan Raach, tells me has popped up from time to time.
Some extremely cheap PC mice don't actually wire up the middle mouse
button.  The Topolino fully supports the MMB but if the mouse is not
properly set up, you may find yourself wildly clicking away and getting
nothing.  A slightly better quality PC mouse performed like a champ, and
the novelty "crayon" PC mouse I hooked up worked as well as can be
expected.

The Topolino sells for 49 DM, or about US$29.  For that price, you
certainly could buy an Amiga mouse and be done with it, so the Topolino
doesn't immediately represent a huge cost savings.  It is true that you can
get PC serial mice for under $10, but caution is advised because of the MMB
defect.  If the MMB is unimportant to you and you burn through mice like
crazy, those cheapie mice paired with a Topolino may be the best thing.
Alternately, if you want a more ergonomic or stylistic mouse from the PC
world, the Topolino is an affordable ticket to get you there.

Ingenieurburo Raach
phone: +49 07587 1201
fax:   +49 07587 1202
e-mail: info@raach.com
http://www.raach.com