Keyboard Layouts

Just another random thought today as I look at my computer keyboard (yes, here comes yet another another moan). Why is the keyboard layout we use so stupid? I’m not talking about the A-Z alphabetic keys – I mean all the other extra letters.

Look at some of the stupid pointless symbols you can enter. What the hell is ^ (shift+6) supposed to be? I’ve never ever used it in typing and can’t think of any reason anyone would want to. Likewise ‘~’ – apparently this on early US typewriters so that spanish people could put the tilde over the ‘n’ (like in España), but why it needs to be on modern computer keyboards is beyond me. The character | (shift+\ next to Z) hardly ever gets used either. The worst, though, has to be the letter to the left of ‘1’ – `¬¦. What on god’s earth are those unrecognisable and (surely) never used symbols (backwards quote thingy, backwards sideways L thingy, two lines on top of each other thingy) doing taking up one whole valuable key on a PC keyboard?

Think about it – getting rid of that key could free up space on the board for more valuable letters that we can’t type right now without using Character Map. How do you enter the degree sign, °? How do you properly type the temperature as 50°C? How do you enter the half sign, ½? How do you enter the copyright sign, trademark sign, plus minus, all reasonably useful characters that people at some point scratch their heads wondering how to get at. Instead, PC keyboards give us a key devoted to `, ¬ and ¦. Wow.

I’m also wondering why British and American keyboards have to be different. They have their @ symbol over the 2 key, the ” symbol over the ‘ key, their # symbol over the 3 key and the (useless) ~ symbol over the (useless) ` key. They don’t have a £ symbol at all. Having the quotes over the apostrophe seems to make much more sense to me, but it’s a shame they don’t have a £ symbol. Can’t some compromise be reached so that the same keyboards can be produced sold on both sides of the atlantic without modification? Surely this would drive down prices? I’m not an economist but I think I can guess that much.