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I'm aware of some early/super hobbyist microcomputers that came with ONLY a hex numpad (that is, no letters beyond F/no punctuation). I'm also aware of home microcomputers that had the usual decimal numpads.

But was there ever a microcomputer that came as standard with a full keyboard that included a numpad that also contained the hex digits? I know entering long strings of hex digits is a not uncommon activity on these early micros, at least for programmers, so it wouldn't surprise me if this was done.

(I seem to recall a memory in the back of my head of one that had this, but I could be completely imagining it — I thought it was the BBC Master but looking at photos it's clearly not!)

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    Early micros (Altair) would use a teletype for a keyboard/printer, early home computers (where hex input still mattered) had keyboards without numpad, so a keyboard + hex numpad would really really surprise me.
    – dirkt
    Dec 30 '21 at 16:23
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    Pretty sure that the original use-case for a separate cluster of number keys on a "full" computer keyboard was to benefit the army of accountants and clerks whose muscle memory already was trained for the keyboards of specialized accounting machines—machines whose UI was mostly settled well before desktop computers became standard office equipment. Dec 30 '21 at 20:48
  • @dirkt: "early home computers (where hex input still mattered)" - Hex input still matters today in some cases (such as Unicode input).
    – Vikki
    Dec 31 '21 at 16:05
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    @Vikki there's a big difference between inputting the occasional hex value (no matter if it's unicode, or program code), and typing in page by page of hexdumps... (yes, I've done the latter. On a keyboard with no numpad.)
    – dirkt
    Dec 31 '21 at 19:20
  • Er, the BBC Master (1986) did have one ... maybe the photos were badly labelled?
    – Lou Knee
    Jan 1 at 17:13
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Apparently you misunderstood the reasoning behind a hex keypad: It never was a means to ease input of hex characters, but rather the cheapest method to input anything at all. Early single board computers like the KIM-1 or µProfessor used this as the only (and cheapest) method to enter everything.

Later, "full-size" home computers like the Apple II or Commodores were proud to have full-size ASCII keyboards - A hex keypad, even in addition to the full-size one, would probably have de-valued those machines in the eyes of the customers. And, frankly speaking: I have typed in a myriads of hex numbers during my life as a programmer, but honestly never came up with the desire for a hex keypad when I had a "real" one.

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    The only reason I mentioned hex keypads at the start was just to make it clear that that wasn't what I'm looking for, because otherwise I fully expected lots of replies with things like "the MK14". I'm aware that the reason was to remove the cost of shipping a full keyboard :)
    – Muzer
    Dec 30 '21 at 17:35
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    Not a microcomputer and not hexadecimal, but a PDP-11/34 with the programmer's console had an octal keypad and 7-segment readout on the front panel. This replaced (boo!) the traditional rows of switches and lights used for hands-on memory twiddling. A keypad on a micro served the same purpose. On the 11/34, though, if you had a teletype hooked up, there was no need to use they keypad - the microcode support for the tty (even if no program was running) was more convenient. Dec 30 '21 at 19:00
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    If one had a numeric pad with enough additional keys on it like "+", "-", etc. it may be practical to have an application treat those other keys as functions that would work well with the number pad, which could be hex digits A-F, but could also be used for a variety of other application purposes (e.g. in a point-of-sale application, one could have buttons for "taxable item", "non-taxable item", "quantity", etc. Having pre-printed legends A-F wouldn't be particularly more useful than allowing applications to simply provide a legend.
    – supercat
    Dec 30 '21 at 21:00
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    @supercat like this one :))
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 30 '21 at 21:03
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    @Raffzahn: That looks like it would be a nice one to work with, since there are enough buttons not only for A-F, but also for some other functions as well.
    – supercat
    Dec 30 '21 at 23:18
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I'm going to point at the TK-80 with the TK-80BS external keyboard:

TK80 + TK-80BX

(The image is from [NEC] TK-80 (IPSJ Computer Museum).)

Unfortunately this doesn't answer your question fully, since you ask for a microcomputer that came as standard with a full keyboard that included a numpad that also contained the hex digits, and this is a computer plus an expansion kit and two separate keyboards. It is, however, close enough to be of interest.

NEC commercialized a fully-assembled kit, comprising both the TK-80 and the TK-80BS under the name "COMPO BS/80". As far as I can tell, the hexadecimal numpad of the TK-80 itself remains hidden under the case, accessible via a hinged door.

COMPO BS/80

(The above image is from 70年代のマイコン.)

COMPO BS/80

(The above image is from 東京の夏に雹(ひょう)が降った。COMPO BS/80 シースルーケース改造. The owner replaced some of the beige plastic from the case with a transparent sheet.)

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    Nice find! (And yet another proof that nothing that can be made hasn't been made already ;) )
    – tofro
    Jan 1 at 17:21
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None that I know of (*1).


Where would the use case be (*2) - it's allways about the use case. On a single boarder all data is hex, so the keyboard needs hex plus function keys. They are not necessarily 'simplified' - some of them had more keys than 'full' keyboards - but special to purpose. Same as other to purpose keyboards, like for registers or CNC machines.

The typewriter keyboard in contrast is a general purpose keyboard, reduced to the maximum. It can handle all input, including function selection when considering a command line.

Modern PC keyboards are in turn an extension to the typewriter keyboard with a few function keys, added modifiers for more versatile use, numpad for accounting and generic function keys. All meant to cover as many usages as possible.

So where would be the use case for a typewriter keyboard plus hexpad (plus function key)? A use case generic enough to make construction of such a computer (not just keyboard) worthwhile?


*1 - I'm saying this despite the fact that I did add A..F keys to a numpad on a terminal many years back - it had an unused row of key positions right of the numpad so soldering 5 more keys was not an issue.

*2 - Then again, none of my colleagues followed that and I wouldn't call them less productive - quite contrary.

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    Oh, the use case is clear: Remember home computer magazines with pages of hex listings to type in? (I'm looking at you, 64'er: archive.org/details/64er_sonderheft_34/page/n9/mode/2up). Dec 30 '21 at 19:35
  • @MichaelGraf I was waiting for that (with you among top 5 candidates to post it [meant as a praise] ) :) There's just a slight sequence error. Tell me, what was first, the C64 or 64'er Magazin?
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 30 '21 at 19:59
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    But the C64 wasn't the first home computer, and magazines with type-in programs were around for all of the 80s, and perhaps earlier. One could argue that the existence of hex listings for one computer created a use case for a hex keypad, that could be implemented in the next one. Then again, computer companies probably wanted to sell software, and everybody else was too busy copying stuff, leaving me to actually type in any of those listings... Dec 30 '21 at 21:09
  • Besides, I'm surprised I made you top 5 list ;-) -- I've hardly posted here this year. Dec 30 '21 at 21:13
  • @MichaelGraf :)) You never hid your heritage or opinion (which I like) and you're still commenting whenever such topic comes up :))
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 30 '21 at 21:25

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