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Acorn's line of ARM-based Archimedes computers was common in UK schools in the 1990s, and many classrooms had an A3000, A4000, or A5000 computer.

The function keys of the A3000 were a distinctive red colour:

Image of A3000 with red function keys(image from Wikimedia Commons)

The A4000, and A5000 (pictured), had dark grey function keys, similar to PC keyboards:enter image description here(image from Wikimedia Commons)

Why was the A3000's keyboard so colourful by comparison?

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The red function keys were a carry-over from the days of the BBC's Computer Literacy Project.

The first computers made for the BBC by Acorn, the Model A and Model B featured red function keys: Image of BBC Micro Model A/B These red keys were a feature of all "BBC" computers, including the subsequent BBC Master series.

The first machines of Acorn's Archimedes line were the A300 and A400 series. The A300s had red function keys, as they still carried BBC branding. The A400s weren't BBC branded, and thus didn't have the red keys.

If you look closely at the top-right corner of the A3000's keyboard (see image in the question), you'll see the logo of the "BBC Microcomputer System" next to the A3000 logo. The A4000 and A5000 weren't marketed as BBC machines, and thus, like the A400 series, they weren't allowed to have red function keys.

  • Petty quibble, apologies. Re: "weren't allowed to have", do you think that's in the sense of the actual legal agreement with the BBC and not appearing to try to co-opt the brand for unauthorised machines, or merely in the sense of Acorn management giving instructions to Acorn designers that it's time for the company to move away from that association? – Tommy Apr 10 at 13:26
  • @Tommy, I'm afraid I don't know. I've asked a question about the BBC's involvement in the Archimedes line at retrocomputing.stackexchange.com/questions/9644 – Kaz Apr 10 at 13:52
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    I don't know the specifics of this case, but designers can get very protective about color schemes. The international courier company UPS owns the copyright on "the color brown", for example. My own multinational employer has a 20-page document defining exactly what color to paint anything that might have the company logo on it! – alephzero Apr 10 at 15:27
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    @alephzero trademark, not copyright. Other people can still use that specific shade of brown as long as they aren't engaged in courier services. – JAB Apr 10 at 18:19

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