It seems like an odd key to omit, given how frequently used it is and given that both the Spectrum + and 128 have one, which acts like backspace does on a modern PC. They could have swapped it for two of the lesser-used characters and placed those on alphanumeric keys with a modifier.

Reference picture from Wikipedia:

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    To lazy to write an answer... archive.org/details/h42_Sinclair_QL_User_Guide/page/n13/mode/… <ctrl>+<leftarrow> were used as rubout/delete They are next to each other, so very easy to use.
    – UncleBod
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 14:27
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    This is one of those questions that only can be answered correctly if someone either was part of the team making the decision or if someone can dig up a document where the decision is discussed.
    – UncleBod
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 14:31
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    @UncleBod, it's not easy to use, it's slower. A DELETE key is easy to use. It's a good question for the site.
    – TonyM
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 15:07
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    The Title could be improved by asking why it lacks both Delete and Backspace keys. My first impression of the original Title was, "why does it matter?", as back then I used only the backspace key (in fact I think we used the DEL key as interrupt (like ^C is commonly used now). Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 15:12
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    @user3570736 The QL was released on 12 January 1984, the Spectrum + in October 1984. So all previous ZX machines lacked a delete key. Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 3:41

2 Answers 2


As Uncle Bod already pointed out, the QL did not leave out Rubout (as Sinclair called it). It's just not printed on the keycap. CTRL+, a combination that seems quite logical to me, will work as expected.

Having it as a shifted function of on another key isn't as unusual as it seems. Already the ADM-3A placed RUB as SHIFT+-(*1), which in turn took the placement right of RUB at the end of the middle (ASDF) row from the Model 33 TTY.

*1 - The ADM-3A is notorious for having introduced several key assignments - like H/J/K/L for vi cursor movement :)

  • 1
    "RUB OUT" is the proper name, as anyone familiar with an ASR-33 teletype will tell you :-)
    – dave
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 23:24
  • @another-dave Yeah, 3 layouts, 3 names for the same thing. One got to love it ...
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Feb 17, 2020 at 23:33
  • Is it HJKK or HJKL?
    – JRN
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 4:07
  • The K key makes up its own mind whether you meant "up" or "right" ? ;-)
    – dave
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 23:42
  • @another-dave Oh, drats. As soon as Larry Tesler dies, copy-past-error rate climbs :) Thanks.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 23:43

The Sinclair QL has not (at least not very much besides the general cost-savy technical design and the Microdrives) been influenced a lot by ZX Spectrum computers - It's rather the other way round: ZX Spectrum Plus and Toastrack did pick up the Dickinson design of the QL computer (For those not familiar with the timeline: The QL was the first Sinclair computer that used that "new", blocky design - Both Spectrum Plus and Spectrum 128 came after the QL).

The QL introduced a "Standard line editor" that understands a lot more Cursor key combinations than just "delete" (<CTRL>Right) and "backspace" (<CTRL>Left). There's word-wise (<Shift>+Cursor), line-wise (<ALT>+Cursor) and page-wise (<Shift><ALT>+Cursor) forward and backward movement and deletion (with added <CTRL>) key combos defined in the line editor implemented by QDOS, so it appears somewhat logical that engineers didn't design in an extra key for just one of many operations.

<Cursor>+<CTRL> deletes a character

add <Shift> and it deletes a word

add <ALT> will delete a line and

add both <Shift> and <ALT> will delete a page.

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