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Adjustable Keyboard Problem

by Christian Smith -- csmith@blackplague.gmu.edu

I've seen a bit of grumbling lately on comp.sys.mac.games and on various Mac BBSes about the way the new Adjustable Keyboard works with many games. The problem is caused by the fact that the system treats the two parts of the keyboard (referred to as Key Board and Key Pad for clarity) as independent parts (which they are), and the fix involves tricking the system into thinking they are a single device.

For example, imagine you're playing Spectre, using the arrow keys on the Key Pad for movement and the spacebar to fire, a common key layout for games. Pressing the spacebar while moving causes the tank to stop moving. The arrows must be released and repressed in order to move the tank further. In short, any key pressed on the Key Board interrupts key repeats from the Key Pad, and vice versa.

One solution, albeit a risky one, is to boot the Mac with only the Key Board attached, and - after the Mac boots - attach the Key Pad. Of course, this means attaching an ADB device with the Mac turned on, which can fry the ADB chip on the motherboard, possibly resulting in an expensive motherboard replacement. If you succeed with this ruse, the Mac will not recognize that the Key Pad is attached; yet it will respond to key presses on the Key Pad, presumably thinking these key presses come from the Key Board. In this case, key repeats will not be interrupted and you can play along happily.

Another solution is to configure the game to use only keys from one device, but this is often inconvenient.

I have talked to people at Apple, and they can "Neither confirm nor deny"[tm] that this is a bug, but they are looking into it.

[This problem - it's actually a feature to make it harder for people suffering from RSI to play games - makes sense, since ADB devices send signals separately. For instance, I use a Curtis MVP Mouse trackball with foot switch (the foot switch attaches via a custom cable to the trackball) but I leave my mouse hooked up for others to use. I can move the mouse and click with the footswitch, since those are separate events, but I can't drag with the mouse and click with the footswitch. When the mouse signals that it is moving, those signals override the mouseDown signal from the footswitch. All in all, this is yet another reason to avoid the Apple Adjustable Keyboard, which gets good grades for basic design and marketing audacity, but fails miserably in essential execution., both for healthy folks who wish to play games and those of us who suffer from repetitive stress injuries. -Adam]