Monday, 3 February 2014

Wire Strippers, Beer and a Spectrum: Part 2

Read Part 1 Here

Written by Dan Gill

The machine sat inside the polystyrene inner, and looked to be in very good condition.  The power supply was there too.  All good so far.  I'd already put the cassette recorder, tapes and detonator-like device to one side, and connected the Spectrum up to ensure it powered on.  Success!  I was greeted by the pale yellow screen awaiting my command.  I punched a few keys, and commands and characters appeared on screen.  I was feeling pretty good by this point.  It's not often you'll find a boxed, working ZX Spectrum for twenty quid.  I gathered together the other bits and pieces and wired it all up.

Having determined the mystery box as an all-in-one computer switch, PSU for the cassette recorder and audio lead container, I was now ready to load one of the tapes.  The two tapes were home copies of The Hobbit, Kong, Scrabble and Pimania.  I thought I'd fire up Kong first of all.  Having had to look up how to load Spectrum games (I never grew up with one), I was met with my first hurdle – the symbol key didn't work.  As any Spectrum owner will tell you, this is needed to input the LOAD “” command.  I tested all the keys and found several others were also out of action.  I opened up the computer to ensure the ribbon was secure (and had a look at the main board.  It was in surprisingly good condition for a machine almost as old as me).  It was fixed firmly.  Of all my concerns after ordering the computer, I'd never considered the keyboard would be the problem. 

After looking into the issue online it transpired that the keyboard membrane was the cause of the fault.  It seems this is a common fault of the rubber keyboard Spectrums.  Being that there was very little else I could do with the machine at this point, I began to search online for a membrane replacement.  Thankfully, I found a site dedicated to supporting various Spectrum models online (http://www.rwapsoftware.co.uk/index.html ) who actually stock replacement keyboard membranes.  I found their eBay shop and ordered a replacement (£10.49 including postage, if you're interested), and eagerly awaited delivery.

A couple of days later my replacement membrane arrived, and I immediately went to work.  I first had to soften the glue holding the metal faceplate on.  Being a techie type, I had the specific tool required for this job, an instrument so niche that one would rarely be seen in a toolbox.  I took the hair dryer and heated the plate for a few seconds.  I then prised the plate off (bending it a little in the process, unfortunately), opened the computer, removed the old membrane, replaced the new one, tested all the keys, and reassembled.  I now had a fully working ZX Spectrum and was ready to load up some games.  Sadly, while the Spectrum itself was working, the other equipment in the equation had other plans.

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