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Friend-Chip K..AT

Article from Sound On Sound, February 1992

You've tried the mouse; now check out its computer-friendly feline counterpart, which offers remote control of Atari keyboard equivalents. Martin Russ prowls around the Friend-Chip K..AT.

The K..AT is a neat accessory for anyone who uses an Atari ST sequencer but hates the QWERTY keyboard, occupying all that valuable desk space... Most ST sequencers let you do almost everything with the mouse, so you can have just a monitor perched over your mixer or keyboard rack, and perch a mouse mat atop your keyboard to control everything. Well, that's the theory — in practice, many repetitive operations can become rather tedious with the mouse: pulling menus down and selecting options; moving up and down the screen to get at the tape transport buttons etc.

Most sequencers get around this by providing 'expert-user' keyboard shortcuts, but then you need access to the ST's QWERTY keyboard, and you have lost the space advantage of having just the mouse mat. The K..AT (it stands for Keyboard for the ATari; 'K..A?' is the correct spelling, although the front panel says 'K.AT') is designed to solve this problem, by providing access to the 'tape transport controls' or the shortcut keys in a sequencer (or any other program in fact) from a small control box which plugs into the joystick port of the ST.

It is the computer software equivalent of a tape recorder remote control — in fact, the labelling reflects this, although you can assign any of the seven buttons (and seven shifted or second function buttons) to any ST QWERTY key (even modified with the shift, alternate or control keys).

There's a software element to the K..AT as well as the hardware bit. You need to install (on your boot floppy or hard disk) and run a special desk accessory K..AT driver program on the ST, and configure the K..AT for the 14 ST QWERTY keyboard commands you want to control. After this, any button presses on the K..AT will then activate the corresponding functions in the sequencer (as long as the sequencer can provide access to the desk accessories in the ST's 'Desk' menu).

Up to 16 named assignments of K..AT buttons to ST QWERTY keys are held in memory by the K..AT, and these can be saved and loaded from disk so you can configure the K..AT to cope with all your music programs. You can choose one of these configurations as the default at boot-up: the configuration supplied, which is the initial default, has settings for Creator and Cubase. The K..AT is MROS and Soft-Link compatible, but needs to be an auto-load desk accessory. It worked fine with my favourite sequencer: Dr. T's RealTime. I even tried it with the STWriter word processor (to write this) with no problems.

Assigning keys is simple: you press a K..AT button and then press the equivalent key on the ST's keyboard. A special key-repeat disable function can turn off the ST's automatic key repeat for any key, if this is necessary. When you activate the K..AT control panel from the Desk menu, you lose the normal pop-up menus in the main program which is running, so you do need to take notes beforehand about the QWERTY key combinations you want the K..AT to control.

A miniature jack plug also lets you plug in a standard footswitch (you will need a jack to mini-jack adapter) to operate the red 'Record' button. This enables you to control one function with your feet, although I suspect that more footswitches could be added by customisation. You may also need a mouse lead extender once you've caught the 'remote' bug, because the K..AT's lead is a generous five metres long, much longer than most mouse tails.

The K..AT is a neat idea and is useful for preventing hi-tech clutter getting in the way of serious music making. Initially I was sceptical about how useful it would be, but I ended up using it all the time and not wanting to send it back.

Further information

£69 inc VAT.

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Fractal Action

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Keep It Simple

Publisher: Sound On Sound - SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.

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Sound On Sound - Feb 1992

Gear in this article:

Remote Control > Friendchip > K..AT

Review by Martin Russ

Previous article in this issue:

> Fractal Action

Next article in this issue:

> Keep It Simple

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