I’ve had many requests over the last year
to review the Miracle Piano. On september 19th, we game Alyson Lyang a new piano teaching
system. It’s funny. One month later, she performed a miracle. If I goof up at the concert then
I’ll be really embarrassed. Well, as coincidence would have it, I was at an estate sale in
Flower Mound, TX when I came across one being sold for $25. They even found the box for
it on the way out. So I did get the manuals and the original floppy disks, which are 720K
to give you an idea how old this is. On the side of the box the system requirements show
it would work on even the oldest of PCs. Alternatively, you can see it would run on everything from
the Nintendo to an Amiga. Unfortunately, the box they gave me was empty. So I had no power
cable or interface cable. So let’s take a look at what condition it was in. The sticker
says $50, but it was half off because it was the last day of the sale. The condition doesn’t
look too bad on camera here, but the thing was disgusting and the keys were yellowed.
On the back, it has MIDI ports and a special one called the Miracle Port. This is where
it would connect to your game consoles and stuff. I noticed it used 12 Volts AC, so my
Nintendo power supply would work with it. I also picked up this Casio SA-9 for $2 at
the same location, it’s in pretty rotten condition too, but I’ll deal with this one later. So
I decided to go ahead and clean this thing up, starting with dis-assembly. Apparently
there were two ribbon cables that had to be unplugged before I could go any further. I
didn’t really NEED to get to the logic board for cleaning, but I couldn’t resist seeing
what was on the other side. So I unscrewed it. This just appears to be an RF shield.
And the good stuff is on the other side. So looking over it, I could identify a few chips.
This is an 8 kilobyte S-RAM chip. A surprising amount of RAM for a keyboard this basic. This
is an EPROM, which likely has the operating system and instrument sample data. This is
an Intel 8032 embedded CPU. And these are all custom chips that have the Software Toolworks
logo on them. One of them is probably a synthesizer chip. I couldn’t find anything on this ST
Microelectronics chip.. but my guess is it is for input/output. The logic board was actually
pretty dirty too, I used some compressed air to get the dirt off, but in some places looked
like it had corrosion from liquid exposure. I cleaned up most of it with a dry toothbrush.
It took some scrubbing, but it was easier than going the liquid cleaning route, which
would involve many extra steps. Once I got the keyboard mechanism out, I just used water
to clean the inside of the case. I’ve never encountered a key mechanism quite like this
one. Once I started getting the keys off, it was clear just how dirty it was under there.
I used some compressed air to clean off the main part. Then, I took the keys to the sink
and cleaned them off with water and a little scrubbing. The keys cleaned up pretty well,
except for two issues. One issue was these apparent scratches. But I’ve often found alcohol
can remove stuff like this. And sure enough, the stuff came right off. The next problem
is that the keys are yellowed from age and UV exposure. So, I stuck all of the keys in
a Ziplock bag and filled it with hydrogen peroxide. Then I sat them out in the sun for
the better part of a day, going out to rotate it and mix it up about once an hour. In the
meantime, I could re-attach the black keys since they don’t need any further treatment.
You can already see this thing looks a million times better. Once the white keys were done
being treated, I began to re-attach them. Of course, these keys aren’t all the same,
so it’s sort of like putting a puzzle together.. Woops, that one doesn’t go there. Ahh, there
we go.. much better. Once they were all in the correct places, I re-attached the little
springs. And here’s the finished keyboard mechanism. It looks much better, doesn’t it?
So then it was time to snap the keymech back into place. and here’s the finished product.
I could actually play this now without cringing. So, let me give you a quick demonstration.
Now, normally I would not show every single instrument on a keyboard review, but being
this thing literally only has 6 insturments, I guess I’ll show them all to you. I’ll start
with the piano. It doesn’t sound too bad, it’s sampled of course. I think the harpsichord
sounds more like an electric guitar. Here’s the organ. I like the sound of the Vibraphone.
Here’s the electric piano. and finally, synthesizer. So what do I like about it? Well, it is simple
to operate, I like that. It also has velocity sensitive keys, which allows for more expression.
I like that it has MIDI and line out ports for recording. What I don’t like about it
is the build-quality. It is made entirely of plastic. Now, plastic is fine for a keyboard
like this, but most larger keyboards use a metal frame for the keyboard mechanism. An
so, because this thing is all plastic, it creaks and cracks a lot when playing it. Take
a listen to what it sounds like in person with the keyboard turned off, to see what
I mean. And of course, I’m not fond of having only 6 instruments. Even early 1980’s keyboards
tend to have at least 8. This thing came out in 1991 and by point most keyboards had hundreds
So, I hate to say it but overall, from a hardware perspective, as a stand-alone instrument,
this thing is actually a piece of junk, especially considering it cost like $500 back in 1991.
But, this thing was marketed as a learning tool, and it’s ability to connect to game
consoles. I remember seeing it in computer stores, electronic stores, and even toy stores
back in the 1990’s. As for how I rate that aspect of the keyboard, well, I’ll have to
wait until I get the appropriate cable setup to connect it to my Nintendo and I’ll let
you know on that in a future episode. Even if it does turn out to be good for learning,
I think Software Toolworks would have been better off contracting with somebody like
Casio or Yamaha to include a re-branded version of one of their amateur keyboards. Just my
opinion, of course.