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For 30 years I have been helping organisations and individuals with their Barcode and Auto ID issues but now I have decided it is time to move on and retire from being the Barcode Man.
I will continue to respond to emails from existing customers about their earlier purchases, their special programming configurations and warranty issues but I regret I cannot help with new purchases or issues nor recommend alternative products or sources.
Lee Allen, The Barcode Man. February 2010
The Mule is a trademark of Altek Instruments Ltd
Product Discontinued: We regret that owing to supply difficulties The Mule is no longer available
What is The Mule? - Summary
The Mule and KeyWedge are trademarks of Altek Instruments Ltd
[Jan 2007] Keyboard Emulator now On-Line
The Mule can create any combination of key strokes but for non ASCII keys you need to know the scancodes. This used to mean looking them up individually in a table and then working out the up and down sequences you needed. Now you can build the sequences you need for the most exacting applications just by clicking on the keys in an emulator. The Keyboard Emulator works exactly like a real keyboard and is free for all to use. You can try out any combinations of keys and read out the scancodes produced in real time. Cut and paste direct into your application to recreate the keystrokes by sending them direct to The Mule. Link to the Keyboard Emulator
[July 2004] The Mule gets a USB interfaceThe Mule can now work with USB Keyboards in exactly the same way as regular keyboards. This means easier use with laptops and portables and the ability to work with non PC architecture computers like the Apple Mac.
[Sept 2003] The Mule can handle the New KeysKeys like Sleep, Power and Wake Up are now detailed in the updated scancode table. The Mule can emulate all of them.
The Mule is a clever device designed to allow a RS232 peripheral to send its data to any applications program running on a PC. The Application does not need to understand about the peripheral device nor have any special provision for handling the data from it. The Mule links the computer to the peripheral in such a way that the data appears to be coming from the keyboard.
Originally designed to simplify the attachment of barcode scanners to PCs, The Mule has now found widespread use interfacing many different types of RS232 based peripherals to PCs.
The Mule is connected between the keyboard and computer. RS232 data is converted into keystrokes and appears in your applications program just as if the data was typed. It works with any program running under any operating system now or in the future. Windows, DOS, Unix...The Mule works with them all. Normal keyboard operation is unaffected.
The Mule is designed to be simple, easy to understand and unobtrusive. No technical knowledge is needed and no tools are required to attach The Mule to a PC. There are no software drivers and it is not necessary to open the computer case. The Mule does not interfere with the normal working of a PC.
Users do not have to learn new techniques or adopt new working practices.
The RS232 Serial interface has been used as a means of interconnecting computer equipment since the earliest days. Despite the fact that many 'improved' interface specifications have been proposed as a replacement, none have been widely adopted and the RS232 interface is still being designed into many computer peripherals.
Background: PC Interface limitations
Over the last decade the modern PC has evolved dramatically in terms of processing power. However the facilities for attaching peripheral devices have hardly improved since the mid 1980s. A modern PC probably has two RS232 ports but should you want to use them for anything other than a mouse or modem you would most likely need engineering knowledge to make it work and also have support from the Application program. If the Application is not specially written to handle RS232 data it is sometimes virtually impossible.
Background: Wedge interface techniquesA 'Wedge' interface is a means of introducing data into an existing data stream- in this case the keyboard input channel. The technique was developed in the early days of 'Home Computers' by Lee Allen at Altek in the years before IBM introduced their first PC. Altek use the trademark 'KeyWedge' to describe their proprietary 'Keyboard Wedge' interface. A KeyWedge interface can be implemented in Software or Hardware. The Mule is the latest hardware implementation from Altek and it supersedes earlier 'software only' methods. A hardware implementation is better because it is independent of the computer operating system. It works with All versions of Windows, DOS and any other operating system- past or in the future. Detailed technical information on the KeyWedge interface can be found by clicking here.
Some keys such as the Function Keys have no direct ASCII equivalent but The Mule can handle it. A special feature built into The Mule allows it to emulate any single or multiple key combination by sending it a special sequence of characters. The Mule can emulate any and every possible key combination you can think of.
The Mule operates by stealing current from the keyboard circuit. Internal links allow this current to be used by the external RS232 device. If the computer cannot supply sufficient power, provision is made for an external power unit. The Mule has an indicator lamp to show when the computer needs help from an external PSU.
The Mule enables any RS232 ASCII device to send data directly into any computer program in real time. Something hitherto impossible. Although it was originally developed for use with barcode scanners, its use in other areas is now widespread. The Mule cuts through all the usual PC to RS232 interface problems...
The Mule is designed to work with barcode scanners and all other similar devices outputting relatively small bursts of RS232 data. If you are unsure or need advice on your application contact Technical Support
The Mule and KeyWedge are trademarks of Altek Instruments Ltd
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