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stepho

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About stepho

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  1. I've got an old Remington Remette portable. But it's the UK version with a funky top row (from when Australia still used pounds as currency).
  2. Ah-ha, I found it! First a history lesson. The first practical typewriter was the Sholes and Glidden typewriter, later known as the Remington 1 - it had uppercase letters and numbers but no shift key. Then the business was sold to to Remington and the 1878 Remington 2 was released - it had a shift key, upper/lowercase, numbers and punctuation above the numbers. In fact the top row starting from 2 (use a lowercase letter L for one and uppercase letter O for zero) was "#$%_&'() ASCII has these in order "#$%&'() being a direct copy of the most famous mechanical typewriter brand with just the _ being dropped. Most computer terminals went for the bit-paired order where the ASCII order was put on the top row and one or two logic gates could implement the shift key - easy and cheap! Most home computers followed the same convention, although Atari inserted the @ key after the ' key, which kind of cancelled out the earlier deletion of _ as far as the () brackets were concerned. Enter the electric typewriter in the form of the 1961 IBM Selectric. Each key had to use the same force, whether it was shifted or not. Which meant that 2 and " characters both got the same force. But the smaller " character has all that force being applied through a smaller area, so it appears darker and deeper on the paper when struck through the ink ribbon. Therefore IBM rearranged the keyboard so that each shifted and non-shifted character on any given key were similar in size and then arranged for particular keys to have slightly less force applied. So the ' and " were moved to their own key and @ and * were moved above the 2 and 8. The Selectric was copied by DEC, which was copied by the ANSI terminal, which was copied by the IBM PC keyboard, which then dominated the world. The final clue about the hammer force was found at http://www.quadibloc.com/comp/kybint.htm (about halfway down just after the images of key rows). The history of ASCII can be found by searching for "Bob Bemer" and "father of ASCII" - his website http://bobbemer.com/ has many interesting anecdotes about how many different character encodings were selected (often with his boss's politics overriding his technical reasons).
  3. This is starting to bug me - why did the " and @ swap places? I have already mentioned the DEC VT52 keyboard suing 2/@ (which was copied by the IBM-PC and hence dominating the computer industry). And as Urchlay said, most computer keyboards followed the ASCII order where simply changing one bit made 2/" logical. But why did DEC choose 2/@ ? I think they copied it from the 1961 IBM Selectric typewriter, which didn't have to be compatible with any code besides its own internal code that drove the golf ball font element. The Selectric was extremely common and well regarded (although expensive) in the business office. DEC terminals were meant to be used in office environments So it made sense to copy the keyboard that most typists were used used. Most terminals of the day were simple shift registers that could only modify a bit or 2 via the shift or Control keys using simple discrete logic gates but DEC terminals were among the first to have extensive logic which could really shuffle things around in arbitrary ways, so maintaining ASCII order wasn't a big problem for DEC. So, most home computers followed the layout used by most terminal manufacturers that matched the ASCII code order. And DEC (and hence IBM) followed what was used in business offices. But where did the 1961 Selectric get its layout from? The 1935 IBM Electric Model 01. Although this also had European variants with 2/" . And this also begs the question - why did ASCII choose that particular order? But I've probably gone deeper than you wanted, so I'll stop here unless asked. As always, history is never straight forward
  4. During the early days of terminals (1960's, 1970's) there was a lot of flux in the exact layout of terminals. Computer terminals needed more and different symbols (eg multiple brackets, less than, greater than) compared to business typewriters (eg 1/2, 1/4) The letters and numbers agreed with typewriters but everything else was not standardised and each manufacturer did their own variations. Many had agreed that " went on the 2 key but not everybody. DEC (aka Digital Equipment Corporation) decided to put the @ on the 2 key for its very successful VT52 terminal and the follow up VT100. The VT100 formed the basis of the ANSI terminal (guess who was on the ANSI committee for standardising terminals). Then the IBM PC copied the ANSI terminal keyboard. The 800 pound gorilla won the day and the others (including Atari and most other home computers) faded into history. Out university computer lab in the mid 1980's had a huge pile of hand-me-down terminals that had all sorts of keyboard layouts. We just had to get used to certain symbols moving around or try real hard to get the same terminal for each tutorial. Other countries tried to keep closer to their existing typewriter keyboards, hence the thought that "/2 is a UK thing. Plenty of pretty images of old keyboards at https://terminals-wiki.org
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