I recently bought a Logitech G915 TKL Keyboard. https://www.logitech.com/assets/65840/g915-lightspeed-wireless-rgb-mechanical-gaming-keyboard-qsg.pdf

It's great but a massive disadvantage is that typing in the dark is made difficult because the shift characters at the bottom of the keys aren't illuminated - only the non-shifted.

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It got me wondering about the history of illuminated keyboards and how they have developed. What were the earliest ones like and did they have illuminated shift characters?

  • 6
    Keyboards with just certain keys backlight (i.e. the indicator on the key as opposed to elsewhere) for certain keys (Caps Lock, Scroll Lock, Num Lock) since at least the 80's.
    – Glen Yates
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 22:25
  • 15
    What bizarre convention puts shifted characters underneath unshifted characters on a keycap?
    – dave
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 23:04
  • 3
    For a mechanical keyboard you have the key switch in the middle of the key cap. So it's a lot harder to illuminate the center of the key than the corner, but it's far from impossible. Also, laptop style keyboard doesn't have this problem at all. Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 2:59
  • 1
    The Aluminium PowerBook G4 is an early consumer example, definitely having its illuminated keyboard in place by 2005. I’ll bet it wasn’t the first though.
    – Tommy
    Commented Feb 10, 2023 at 3:16
  • 3
    Further on this: GE has a patent from 1980, but I can't figure out whether it was realised as a product.
    – Tommy
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 2:54

1 Answer 1


The first backlit keyboard I encountered was on a defense project in 1980-1. Each key was individually lit, and was under software control so that the shortcut keys could be illuminated only while they were available. It was pretty slick, and we made the most of it by dimming the room lighting for demos. Watching the keys light up and go out while the system was being used almost as good as what was being shown on the color display.

The console also had a large trackball embedded in the desk beside the keyboard, which was used by palming it. I have no idea what company built the unit, but the project was at MacDonnell-Douglas in St. Louis.

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