Friday, November 27, 2015

Presenting the AZ15, a not Actuall Clone of a ZX81 Assembled

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I was confident it would look pretty cool, yet once the case arrived (after some timely industrial action at customs and excise) my expectations were exceeded by far. It does in fact look damn amazing, this 3D printing thing and by extension Shapeways ability to turn home design into reality is brilliant.

As expected the surface on the final product is lightly rough to touch and has a non-gloss finish. It kind of reminds me of suede, if suede assumed a plasticky form. You can still see the layers where the object has been built up but that certainly doesn't detract from the looks of the AZ15 case. Invariably I couldn't wait to put it all together, and thus the beginning of the end phase ensued.

Firstly I gathered all the disparate parts together. Internally the case had the following items to be installed, a Raspberry Pi 2, the LeoStick and Converter board, a right-angled usb cable to connect to the LeoStick, a WIFI dongle, LEDs and the mode selector switch. The keyboard would sit nicely on the tray, with it's cable sliding through a gap provided at the upper right corner much, like on the original ZX81.

The Pi, USB cable and WIFI dongle were installed first. I was relived that this all fit exactly as planned, being that the AZ15 case was designed specifically to hide one of the USB port banks and thus give the appearance of one complete unit to the casual observer.

Next the LEDs were hot glued into position, the mode switch installed and the keyboard converter board were inserted. Working in the confined space was a little challenging but everything so far went in without to much difficultly. As I'd made the converter myself and therefore drilled the mounting holes by hand, the mounting points were designed to allow a little slip and slide for easy adjustment. The one thing I hadn't counted on was not being able to affix the bolt heads due to access issues at the far right corners, luckily for me the drill holes in the converter board are nice and tight, so the bolts screwed in and held the board firmly enough.

Time to plug in the brains of the keyboard ie. the LeoStick. It's all a tight little fit, leaving just enough room to smuggle in the cables coming directly from the keyboard. The keyboard was mounted with some doubled sided tape on the keyboard tray.

Flipping the case over, some handy dandy rubber feet are slotted into position to provide much needed non slipping action, necessary when typing on a keyboard of diminutive weight and size.

Now it was a simple matter of plonking the lid on, except that the plonking didn't quite plonk as one might have expected. Unfortunately I'd made the little tabs on the side of the lid slight to small, meaning that the lid slides about a little bit to much. The immediate solution was to use some tiny strips of double sided tape to hold the movable lid in position. At a later date I might opt to get the lid reprinted and permanently fix this relatively minor issue.

So that's it, time for some sitting back a marveling at my creation. I'm very pleased with the final look of the AZ15 case, and hopefully I've managed to do the original ZX81 design justice and possibly at least slightly amuse Rick Dickinson the creator of the ZX81's iconic looks.

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