Questions tagged [keyboards]

For questions about the maintenance, usage, or history of retro keyboards.

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126
votes
5answers
16k views

Why is the keyboard and cellphone / telephone numbers in a different order?

Cellphone / Telephone have the seven bottom-left and the one top-left. While the keyboard has the seven top-left and the one bottom-left How did this come to be? Is there an interesting computing ...
71
votes
7answers
13k views

Why wasn't ASCII designed with a contiguous alphanumeric character order?

Anyone who has dealt with strings at a low level (e.g., writing a parser in C), knows that doing so tends to involve frequent checks of—either manually, or through isalpha(), isalnum(), etc—whether a ...
60
votes
4answers
10k views

Why did F1 become the Help Key?

There was actually a pretty big push among some vendors in the 1980's to have a dedicated Help Key (conveniently labeled as Help). Atari introduced it in 1983, and kept it to the end. The Commodore ...
56
votes
2answers
5k views

Why was the return key symbol ⏎ drawn differently from the motion of a CR-LF?

In the operating system (DOS) of IBM PCs, newlines were represented by a carriage return (CR) character, followed by a line feed (LF) character. The motion of a printer or teletype receiving such a ...
43
votes
3answers
4k views

Why are the symbols on the number keys of PC & Mac keyboards different to ASCII keyboards?

On a US-layout PC keyboard, the symbols above the number keys are as follows: Whereas the keyboard on an Apple II is different: Note, for example, the '(' and ')' symbols are now above 8 and 9, and '...
43
votes
2answers
5k views

Locked-up DOS computer beeped on keypress. What mechanism caused that?

Long time ago I had an old IBM PS/2 that I had fished out of a dumpster. It ran IBM DOS 5.0 and was a solid little machine. Occasionally I would encounter the following scenario, and I recently ...
41
votes
6answers
9k views

How did the SysRq key get onto modern keyboards if it's rarely used?

Was the SysRq key ever used on any common operating system? Google tells me it wasn't. But then how did it end up on so many keyboards?
35
votes
4answers
9k views

Why do keyboards have an asterisk?

While we're all accustomed to using * as the multiplication symbol (not to mention other esoteric meanings in programming) it is of course not actually the everyday standard symbol for multiplication. ...
35
votes
6answers
4k views

What was the purpose and history of the C64's special keys?

I never had a Commodore 64 but I've always been curious what the purpose and history of some of the special keys were. In particular: C= Run/Stop Clr/Home Restore I'm mostly used to the standard ...
34
votes
5answers
9k views

Why is the clock frequency of the PS/2 keyboard protocol so high?

The PS/2 keyboard protocol allows the keyboard to generate a clock rate between 10 kHz and 16.7 kHz. At 11 bits per scancode, 10 kHz is a massive 909 scancodes per second. World-record holder Barbara ...
34
votes
2answers
4k views

Why did the C64 have ← and ↑ as dedicated keys?

I've always wondered why the Commmodore 64 had discrete keys dedicated for the ← and ↑ symbols. If I remember correctly, they weren't used in BASIC at all, and were not very useful for drawing, ...
33
votes
1answer
6k views

What do the keys on this Symbolics Space Cadet keyboard do?

Old keyboards like the one below seem to have contributed a lot to the design of modern keyboards. So, obviously, some of the keys are familiar because they are on my own average (modern Windows and ...
28
votes
3answers
6k views

Why separate cursor keys?

The original IBM PC keyboard didn't have separate cursor keys; the numeric keypad doubled as such. It wasn't long, however, until a new keyboard was introduced that did have separate cursor keys (so ...
27
votes
4answers
8k views

Why are the homing bumps on D and K on Apple keyboards?

Some Apple keyboards, such as the Apple //e, some early Macintosh models, and the venerable Apple Extended Keyboard have the homing bumps on the D and K keys instead of the standard F and J keys that ...
26
votes
3answers
3k views

What do the '80/40' and 'keyboard' buttons on my Apple IIc do?

Above the keyboard of my Apple IIc there are two buttons that say "80/40" and "Keyboard". On my machine, they both kinda feel broken. When I press them, they recede into the case and remain there for ...
25
votes
3answers
5k views

Adapting a “modern” keyboard to a ZX Spectrum

Is there a way, such a specific interface adapter, which would allow me to connect a PS/2 keyboard to an original ZX Spectrum? I expect the keyboard to work similarly to the ZX Spectrum itself -- in ...
24
votes
4answers
38k views

How can I connect a DIN plug keyboard to USB?

I have a wonderful IBM Model M keyboard, which has the best key action of all keyboards I ever used. The problem is it has the big round 5-pin DIN connector used in AT PCs. I have some PS/2 to USB ...
20
votes
1answer
2k views

Why does PAUSE key have a long make code and no break code?

On IBM keyboards, scan code sets 1 and 2 have a long make code and lack a break code for the Pause/Break key. Moreover, when Ctrl is pressed, the make code is different, although break code still ...
17
votes
8answers
4k views

Were there any parallel port keyboards?

I was reading this QA ( Why is the clock frequency of the PS/2 keyboard protocol so high? ) and read in the replies that a high frequency was chosen (at least in-part) to reduce the latency between a ...
17
votes
2answers
4k views

Why is there only one PS/2 port on my computer?

I have an old computer from around 1995. It's from a computer brand that I've never heard of called Samanna Compu-Solutions. I am unsure of the model. The problem is, I only have one PS/2 port to work ...
17
votes
6answers
9k views

How can I connect a modern USB keyboard to a system requiring PS/2?

I have a DEC VT525 terminal base (recently repaired) that requires a PS/2 keyboard. The Digital OEM keyboard was a LK 411, with a PS/2 plug. There was also a PC-style keyboard available. I could get ...
17
votes
1answer
738 views

How can I interface with an old Atari from a modern computer?

I have an old 8bit Atari at my dad's house which would be fun to play with. It has a keyboard, computer and screen, turn it on, and program BASIC. But I'll possibly want to load the code from a ...
17
votes
1answer
5k views

Why are the | and ¦ keys labelled the wrong way around?

Note to close-voters: There is a meta question concerning the on-topicness of this question. Please provide an answer or comment. A comment from downvoters wouldn't hurt either. The UK QWERTY ...
16
votes
1answer
1k views

Why are older Shift keys shaped the way they are?

On today's keyboards, the two Shift keys are somewhat elongated horizontally, but otherwise look much the same as any other key on the keyboard. However, in times past it was not altogether unusual ...
14
votes
6answers
2k views

Why did tactile-feedback keyboards lose popularity?

IBM spoiled me for hardware quality. I've gone through many computers, including a TRS-80, Heathkit H-89, Commodore Vic-20 and C-64, and countless PC's but my first original IBM PC will always be my ...
13
votes
2answers
652 views

How can I use a modern keyboard with the Panasonic JB 3000?

I still own my very first computer - a Panasonic JB 3000. The keyboard it came with now has many faulty keys. It has reached the stage where I can no longer use the computer, because I can't type. ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

Troubleshooting and reparing an Atari 800XL with a single key not working

I recently purchased an old Atari 800XL off eBay. The machine was untested/as-is and not guaranteed to work, but it was cosmetically in mint condition with original box, manuals, and even the ...
12
votes
2answers
785 views

Did the Oric-1 improve on the Spectrum's keyboard?

So I've been whiling away some of a quiet Saturday night reading up on an early eighties computer called the Oric-1, which seems to be a curious little machine that has been largely unsung; moderately ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the name of the back arrow key on C64 keyboard?

What is the name of the back arrow key on top left corner of the C64 Keyboard? Is it escape or back? Also I don't recall using this key. What was the intended usage of it?
12
votes
1answer
2k views

On what Apple II and II+ keyboards can the ']' character be generated?

It had long been my impression that while brackets [ and ] could be displayed by the Apple II, the standard Apple II keyboard was not capable of generating them. Some time ago I noticed that on this ...
12
votes
2answers
836 views

How do I replace a ZX Spectrum 48k keyboard membrane?

I have a ZX Spectrum 48k on which the keyboard membrane has cracked over the years and, while the Speccy itself is operational, has rendered the computer unusable. I am now in possession of a ...
11
votes
3answers
699 views

Commodore 64 with partly working keyboard (part 2)

I have a C64 that has recently stopped responding to two 'columns' of keys, namely '9,0' 'i,o' 'j,k' and 'n,m' - I've swapped the CIA chips (U1 and U2) to no effect, so I pulled a keyboard from a ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

Amiga-looking keyboard for PC

I would like to use an Amiga-looking keyboard on my PC. (I prefer not to use my old original A2000 keyboard with an adapter, partly because it lacks many keys present on modern 105-key keyboards, and ...
11
votes
1answer
885 views

How are held-down keys handled in CHIP-8?

The CHIP-8 has, among its instructions, the following ones: Ex9E: Skips the next instruction if the key stored in VX is pressed. ExA1: Skips the next instruction if the key stored in VX isn'...
11
votes
1answer
1k views

Why do Sun keyboards use diamond for meta?

The Sun Type 3 keyboard labelled its meta keys "Left" and "Right". The Type 4 changed this to a hollow diamond, or lozenge: ◇. The Type 5 and on uses a solid diamond: ◆. My ...
10
votes
2answers
750 views

When does an IBM-compatible PC keyboard controller dequeue scancodes?

There is a not-unheard-of technique in DOS software to detect certain keypresses (like Ctrl+Break) by intercepting the keyboard interrupt (IRQ 1) and reading the scancode directly from the keyboard ...
10
votes
2answers
593 views

Extending C128D Keyboard cable

I need to make a 25 pin Sub-D extension cable for my C128D keyboard. I think it may be as easy as connecting male pins from one side to corresponding female pins on the other side, but need ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

How to fix a TI99/4a membrane keyboard?

I recently purchased a 1982 TI99/4a that has a defective keyboard. The keyboard is a Mitsumi with normal keys, but membrane type contacts. When I press the contacts (gently) with a plastic stylus ...
9
votes
2answers
1k views

What were the selling points of the Atari 800 over the 400?

Apparently when the two Atari 8-bit machines were released, the 400 outsold the 800 2 to 1, which is unsurprising considering they were priced at approximately $500 and $1000 respectively. Indeed, ...
9
votes
2answers
841 views

Was there an input device capable of entering all Algol 60 symbols with correct appearance?

This question was inspired by recent discussion on early keyboards and character sets, and mention in passing about how the COBOL designers were concerned about not using "non-existent" ...
9
votes
1answer
1k views

Black Amiga 500 Keys

I am creating a black Amiga 500 casing for my retro pi unit. I have already bought the casing, a 1200 keyboard and keyrah unit to convert the keyboard to USB. I have some vinyl dye paint for the ...
9
votes
1answer
630 views

How do I clean/refurbish an Apple IIc Keyboard?

My Apple IIc is what appears to be the first US model: A2S4000 with version 255 ROMs. The keyboard PCB is marked 820 0108 03 ©1983, and the keyswitches are the "cross" type as seen below, without any ...
8
votes
6answers
8k views

Why do keyboards with a NumPad repeat the numbers?

This question is related to this one. I realise not all keyboards have the NumPad, but why do those who do have a NumPad have two sets of keys for numbers ( the numbers above the letters and below the ...
8
votes
1answer
873 views

Who established the original F1 desktop BIOS key and why did laptops use a different key?

It seems early on IBM, MS, and DOS clones established a standard of holding the F1 key down during boot to access the BIOS setup. Yes there were a few much less common combinations that used the DEL (...
8
votes
2answers
540 views

Origin of Ctrl-Alt-Delete key combination to reset

The Ctrl + Alt + Del key combination to reset is known to me to work on older PC/MS-DOS PCs, some versions of Atari TOS, on runlevel 3 / multiuser.tager Linuxes (it can be disabled). The older of ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Can the ADB keyboard and mouse be converted to the 128K Macintosh?

As you probably know, the original Macintosh 128K, 512K (Fat Mac) and the Macintosh Plus (IIRC) have a different keyboard and mouse connection than the later ADB versions such as the Macintosh SE ...
8
votes
1answer
542 views

Cleaning membrane keyboards

I have a 3003b CoCo 1 (the white one) with the melty keyboard. A few of the keys do not work. On a few of them, there appears to be a slimy substance that I've cleaned from the surface. The badge on ...
8
votes
1answer
852 views

Commodore 64 with partly working keyboard

My Commodore 64 has developed a fault with the keyboard. Some of the keys are working and some aren't. As far as I can see there is no pattern and they are randomly distributed across the keyboard. ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

How ZX Spectrum avoided key ghosting

Was ZX spectrum better at handling than later PCs-keyboards without having diodes in its key matrix? I encountered this comment on ycombinator but I fail to understand it. Couldn't be Speccy method ...
7
votes
3answers
6k views

How do I use my adapted PS2 keyboard & mouse on a windows 10 computer?

I want to use my old PS/2 mouse & keyboard with my Dell Latitude, which has no PS/2 ports. I am fully aware that the easiest way to do this would to use an active PS/2 to USB converter, like this ...