The KE24 is Hagstroms distant cousin to the LP24 (see Figure 8-15), retailing for $100. It has a 52-pin header on it, with 24 pairs of input pins and 2 pairs of ground pins. Programmable like the LP24, the KE24 distinguishes itself by allowing any combination of matrix and direct mode configuration of the 24 available input pins, including true direct mode functionality. This means you could configure the encoder to have 24 direct inputs, or up to a 12 x 12 matrix for 144 inputs. You could also elect to have a combination, such as a 10 x 10 matrix with four pins in direct mode. This would present you with 100 keystrokes possibly susceptible to ghosting, and four keystrokes guaranteed not to have ghosting issues. This gives you a tremendous amount of flexibility as you design your keystroke inputs.
Wiring the KE24 will require a home-made wiring harness, as Hagstrom does not list one as an available accessory. These are not difficult to make with parts from an electronics store. A standard IDE flat ribbon cable will fit over some of the pins but will bend others at the ends unless modified. The KE24 includes a keyboard pass-thru, and the ability to not only enable/disable keyboard repeat, but also to configure the delay and speed of the repeat. The unique flexibility of the programmable KE24 to have both matrix and direct mode configurations make this an intriguing candidate for an arcade cabinet. It is well-suited for either a two- or four-player control panel. KE72/KE72T The KE72/KE72T (see Figure 8-16) is the flagship of the Hagstrom keyboard encoder line. This model was designed specifically to be suitable for arcade cabinet builders after consultation with many members of the gaming community. The unit retails between $120 and $140 depending on configuration. It is more than a keyboard encoder, adding support for industry-standard trackballs or spinners (KE72T model) as well.
The KE72 supports the highest number of direct inputs of any encoder currently available at 72 programmable inputs. It does not support a matrix mode. Programming the KE72 can be done through the keyboard cable or serial cable for Windows 98/95, and serial cable only for Windows 2000/XP. Hagstrom truly listened to the needs of the gaming community as the encoder can be programmed automatically through batch files. Programming is accomplished by running a command line programming utility that reads a configuration file and applies it to the encoder. If you need multiple configurations for different games, simply create a unique configuration file for each game and load it before running the game. Through the use of batch files, you can automate the entire process to load the proper configuration and run the game with a single click!
Because the encoder runs in direct mode only, ghosting is not an issue, and all 72 keystrokes can be generated simultaneously without key blocking occurring. The keystrokes generated can include any found on a standard keyboard, and also can include macros of up to 32 keystrokes with a single button press. Other features tailored to the gaming community include the trackball interface, which not only supports trackballs and spinners, but also has three mouse buttons as well. This requires using the PS/2 mouse port as well as the keyboard port. The KE72 includes a keyboard port pass-thru. It also has soldering points for attaching Num-Lock, Caps-Lock, and Scroll-Lock LEDs to your control panel. Some games, mostly a few emulated by MAME, will light up the LEDs to correspond to coin inserts or in-game action. Upon request, Hagstrom will solder in a connector and include an appropriate cable for the LEDs so that you only need to purchase the LEDs themselves. They will charge a nominal fee for this service.
Wiring the KE72 can be done with two IDE flat ribbon cables, as the two wiring headers were designed specifically to fit the IDE standard. Combine this with the optional wiring break-out board shown earlier in Figure 8-13 for an easy wiring job. Although the KE72 physically looks like a PCI card, it is designed that way solely for mounting purposes. There are no electrical connections on the PCI-style mounting. You can either elect to mount the KE72 in a PCI slot or screw it to a spot on your control panel as with any other encoder.
Of all the encoders available from Hagstrom, the KE72T is the most ideal candidate to run a four-player control panel. The added ability to run a trackball or two spinners (but not both) along with 72 direct inputs, make it almost a one-size-fits-all solution!
The KeyWiz line of products (www.groovygamegear.com) is a recent arrival to the arcade controls community that has come on strong with an aggressive feature set. Two models are available (see Figure 8-17) sporting the same core features. Pricing starts at $27 for the economy model (Eco), and $35 for the maximized model (max).
The KeyWiz supports 32 direct inputs and does not have a matrix mode. It includes a shift key dubbed the Shazaaam! key that allows 24 inputs to have a secondary function, for a total of 56 possible inputs. The KeyWiz has a few unique features that help it stand out. Normally the purpose of a shift key is to provide for specific functions that you dont want available during normal play. However, you have to press two buttons to activate that function. The folks at KeyWiz offer a simple but elegant alternative to this, providing an adapter cable that will let any single button generate a shifted keystroke. Its a simple concept, but KeyWiz thought of it and makes it available to you.
The KeyWiz shines when it comes to programming, with a full-featured programming utility. One unique feature is the ability to associate configuration profiles with certain games. You can create and store up to 15 different configurations in the programming software. When you press the button corresponding to a particular configuration, it not only loads the configuration, it can also optionally launch the application! You can also assign a profile to a Windows icon and run it all with a single click. The KeyWiz is programmable in both DOS and Windows.
Another unique feature is to have two configurations resident in the KeyWiz while in use. One is the default MAME-compatible key set, and the other is your customized configuration. Change back and forth on the fly by activating the Shazaaam! key and pressing left on your joystick for MAME, right for the custom configuration. The KeyWiz ships with the MAME-compatible configuration as a default. Custom configurations are not stored when powered off and must be loaded at boot-up (which can be automated easily).
Wiring the KeyWiz ranges from difficult to easy depending on which model you purchase. The economy model comes with solder points for the inputs. If you are skilled at soldering, this may be a good consideration to save a few dollars. The max model comes with standard screw-terminals that make wiring easy. The max model also adds a switchable keyboard pass-thru port. Either the KeyWiz or the keyboard is active at one time, but not both.
The KeyWiz is a full featured line of products and represents serious competition to the other encoder manufacturers. Because of the relative newness of the product line, they do not have as big of an installed user base as some of the other encoder lines. Their feature set, pricing, and user support are all excellent, so expect that to have changed by the time the first update to this book comes out.
You may have noticed the extra serial port connecter on the KE24. This has two functions. The KE24 is a multi-function device capable of sending input and output through the serial port as well as the keyboard ports. You could use a custom keyboard device to control a serial port-based robot, for instance, without having a PC involved at all. This is very flexible, but not particularly useful for our purposes. For arcade cabinet builders, the serial port on the KE24 will be used to program the encoder. Programming the encoder is similar to the LP24, except the KE24 can be programmed both in DOS and Windows. Once you load the programming application, you assign the various pins to be in matrix or direct mode, and fill out the matrix map according to your preferences. The KE24 also supports the programming of macros (up to 16 key sequences) in the matrix, so you could generate a series of moves with one button push. Save the configuration to the encoder (and a backup to disk) and youre ready to go. Like the LP24, you can save and load configurations for the KE24 from disk, but it cannot be automated.