The Contest Computer Part Deux

W3MM at W3MM at
Wed Nov 29 21:50:52 EST 1995

WOW!!! I think that I awakened a sleeping giant or maybe I opened a
55 gallon drum of worms. The response to the first post has been
unbelievable. Well I had some hints for immediate info about:
              The Contest Keyboard

My competition has a Secret Weapon that combined with his extraordinary
contest operating skills, will surely allow him to club me to death.

Those of you who follow computer adds in the major pc magazines have
surely noticed the Gateway2000 systems that for the past 3 years or so
have been shipped with the "Anykey" 124 key programmable keyboard.
This keyboard is manufactured by Maxi Switch and is assembled in
Mexico (6E2T if this keyboard does not work in Mexico, well we really
don't want to start that war again). Well what is so special about this 
keyboard? The keyboard has two sets of "F" keys, one set is across the
top, the other set is down the left side of the keyboard. Well there are
other keyboards that have this feature. You bet they do! But these other
keyboards have a severe deficiancy when compared to the Maxi Switch.
With the Maxi Switch you can program the "TOP" F1 to be entirely different
than the "LEFT" "F1". The other keyboards that I have encountered do not
have this capability. If you program the TOP F1 to do a specific function,
then the LEFT F1 does the same function. Obviously nothing is gained
here so don't waste your money on an inferior programmable keyboard.
Please realize that my only contesting logging experience is with K1EA's
CT. I have never seen the other available logging programs. My example
deals with CT commands but those of you who use different logging
programs can apply the basics to the commands that are appropriate
for your favorite logging software. 

In CT there are many two fingered commands to make things happen such
as ALT F9 (cw speed down 2 WPM). I do not find two fingered commands 
to be convenient. They are difficult to remember and they require additional
physical exertion. If I can punch one key instead of two and get the required
result, then I have saved time and energy by not having to search for two
keys. I as most of you am not a speedy typist so this advantage helps you
to keep up with the people who are keyboard experts. I am going to give
you my custom keyboard layout. Keep in mind that I am left handed but 
I do send on a bug or electronic keyer with my right hand. If I have to
to the old J-38 straight key then I must use my left hand. I just never
the straight key with right hand. K3WW and K2WK each have their own 
custom keyboard layout. My example is what works for me. These two guys
have developed what works best for them respectively.

Now the "TOP F keys". F1-F12 are grouped into 3 distinct clusters of 4. i.e.
F1-F4 is a distinct group that is separated by a space from the next cluster
which is F5-F8. Also this middle cluster is a different color than the
on the left or right. F9-F12 is the 3rd cluster. Now here is my layout for
TOP F keys:

F1 - yes that is a minus sign, it brings up the split freq window. You would 
       be surprised at the number of people who don't know this function
F2 ALT ,  toggles the band map 
F3 I don't program this key
F5 + yep that is the plus sign
F6 "INSERT" That is the insert key, a real pain to find
F7 ALT F3  Announce DX
F8 Check Partial (Log) K1EA default
F9 Check Call K1EA default
F10 Check Country K1EA default
F11 Wipe K1EA default
F12 Super Check Partial (Log and Master.DTA) K1EA default

Now the Left F1 Keys:  The left F11 and F12 keys are at the top left of the
keyboard. F1 -F10 are below them in pairs. Now the layout:

F1 CQ  K1EA default
F2 Exchange K1EA default
F3 Confirm K1EA default
F4 Your Call K1EA default
F5 ALT O  Monitor Packet
F6 ALT T Talk to Packet
F7 ALT A Announcement Window
F8 Alt S Summary Window
F9 Control "Right Arrow"
F10 ALT F4  Grab Spot/Return to run freq
F11 ALT F9 CW speed down 2 WPM
F12 ALT F10 CW speed up 2 WPM

Now one more part of the keyboard must be discussed and that is the 
numeric keypad. It took a while before this light bulb turned on in my
head. Think about the ARRL DX test where the DX sends you their 
power in the exchange. Usually you would have to input 3 numbers
(3 keystrokes) to log the power. Let us program the numeric keypad 
as follows:

Now the only time we have to enter 3 keystrokes is when the DX sends 250
or 799 for example. A great time saver.

Now how does one get one of these great keyboards? FIRST of all if you
have never bought a computer system from Gateway2000 they will not sell
you anything and they don't even want to talk to you. If you have a friend 
who has purchased a system from Gateway, then he could order the board for 
you. I just bought another of these gems last week and the price was $59
plus shipping. You don't have a connected friend, then NO Worry Mate! Read
the next paragraph.

I did your home work for you. I scoured the DEC Computer Shopper and this
keyboard is marketed under the Maxi Switch name. It is difficult to find a
reseller but here goes: Next International, phone (800) 730-6398.  The add
states keyboards: 124 key Maxi Switch Programmable $55.  The add is on
page 635 of the DEC, 1995 Computer Shopper.

OK just a little bit more to cover. Is this keyboard RF bullet proof? Well in
case and K3WW's case no problems have been encountered. Walt, K2WK,
has had a problem with every keyboard he has owned. Well Walt got serious
about this keyboard and found that when he disconnected the 25' printer cable
from the computer all his RF problems went to bed. There will be more on 
cable problems in a future post.

The last of this. The keyboard comes with software that allows you to save 
special configurations to the hard disk. It also allows you to download the
configuration from the hard disk to the keyboard. AH, You don't have to go
through a manual reprogram if you have set the keyboard to its standard 
layout. Great time saver. One exception to this and again it happens at
K2WK. He has an ancient 386 that refuses to accept the uploads from the
keyboard. Walt is a computer programmer so we have decided that this 
problem is unique to his computer.

Well again this has been a long tirade but I hope I have helped you in your
quest to make your contest station the best that it can be.

  VY 73 de Dave W3MM       w3mm at


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