The history of the ISO keyboard layout

User avatar
mondalaci

12 Sep 2016, 01:24

Hi guys,

Do any of you know who designed the ISO keyboard layout, when, what were the design objectives, and such?

I'm pretty interested about the history of the ISO layout but cannot find any information on it.

Thanks in advance!
- Laci

User avatar
Techno Trousers
100,000,000 actuations

12 Sep 2016, 01:40

Wikipedia had a pretty extensive page. I guess the main takeaway, which i didn't realize, is that there isn't "an" ISO standard, but rather a framework for national and industry standards.

Findecanor

12 Sep 2016, 02:42

I wrote the history of the Return key in the Wiki a couple of weeks ago ... but I am missing info on how the ISO standard got it.
The vertical Return key originates from the first typewriter that had the key. It was right next to P, but a half row down and not much larger than other keys. It then grew to a square on two rows.

Computers (and teletypes) have now and then taken after the most common typewriter at the time, and IBM has dominated the field of typewriters before they made IBM PCs. The first IBM Selectric had a square Return key to the right of P, but later Selectric II and III models added more symbols, more keys, pushing the Return key to the right. There are Selectric III with ISO layout.

Many European shifted symbols on the numeric row (and symmetry in the ASCII code) come from early English-language typewriters, and the shifted symbols in English layouts (UK and ANSI) come from later model Selectrics.

BTW, there is an older thread on this subject.

User avatar
mondalaci

12 Sep 2016, 23:32

Thanks for the replies, guys!

wiki/Return_key is a great resource which I wasn't aware about, and the other thread phrased the questions that I'm interested in so much better than I did.

Unfortunately, I'm still puzzled about the L-shaped Enter key. It seems to offer no advantages over the bar shaped Enter which has a simpler shape, and it's closer to the home row. It seems to me that the L-shaped Enter key was completely arbitrarily designed with no thought of ergonomics.

On the other hand, the small left Shift key and the extra key next to it makes sense to me, even though I dislike it.

User avatar
mecano

14 Sep 2016, 09:52

Findecanor wrote: The vertical Return key originates from the first typewriter that had the key. It was right next to P, but a half row down and not much larger than other keys. It then grew to a square on two rows.
The growth was happening because of the force needed to depress the Return key, which had to move the carriage up.

User avatar
fohat
Elder Messenger

14 Sep 2016, 14:08

On a manual typewriter, you grabbed an arm and literally pulled the roller assembly back to the left side.

The electric assist, when typewriters became electric, did that work for you.

User avatar
seebart
Offtopicthority Instigator

14 Sep 2016, 14:32

fohat wrote: On a manual typewriter, you grabbed an arm and literally pulled the roller assembly back to the left side.

The electric assist, when typewriters became electric, did that work for you.
Ha funny how many may not know that since they never used a manual typewriter, depending on the model that operation made an impressive noise.

User avatar
fohat
Elder Messenger

14 Sep 2016, 14:51

seebart wrote:
Ha funny how many may not know that since they never used a manual typewriter, depending on the model that operation made an impressive noise.
And there was often a little bell to tell you that you were successful. Solenoids, ppfffftt

User avatar
kbdfr
The Tiproman

14 Sep 2016, 15:07

This is a very modern typewriter compared to the one I learnt typing on,
but the technology hadn't changed much :lol:

Findecanor

14 Sep 2016, 17:30

mecano wrote: The growth was happening because of the force needed to depress the Return key, which had to move the carriage up.
I think that the Return key could have been connected not just to a switch but also some mechanism, but it would be weird to not have the line-feed operation be power-assisted like the movement of the carriage.

andrewjoy

14 Sep 2016, 17:47

The iso layout should be history , because the UNIX layout is vastly superior :P

User avatar
kbdfr
The Tiproman

14 Sep 2016, 17:49

Findecanor wrote:
mecano wrote: The growth was happening because of the force needed to depress the Return key, which had to move the carriage up.
I think that the Return key could have been connected not just to a switch but also some mechanism, but it would be weird to not have the line-feed operation be power-assisted like the movement of the carriage.
I suppose mecano meant not the Return key, but the Shift key.
As a matter of fact, each lever had two letters on it, lowercase on top and uppercase under it. Pressing the Shift key moved the whole lever assembly up, causing the lever to hit the paper with the uppercase instead of the lowercase.

Findecanor

14 Sep 2016, 19:59

My dad was a journalist and owned lots of typewriters. Most of them were thrown away after he had died in '97 (... including maybe also a Selectric III :( ... I only remember that I used a large typewriter as a kid, not which model it was) but I have two left that had been misplaced. I brought one from storage to test it: a Silver-reed Electric 2000, an electric model with type-arms and a powered carriage.

Neither Shift, Return nor the Space Bar do anything when the power is off. The Shift keys are higher and heavier than other keys even though they are electric and they have very deep key travel and hysteresis - properties which I suspect are there by design to emulate the feeling of using a mechanical typewriter.
Instead of moving the lever assembly, the Shift key moves the carriage up and down. The electric Shift mechanism does however not protect against key presses when the carriage is moving. it was not difficult to type characters in-between the lines.
Backspace and Tab are completely mechanical though, working even when the power is off. The Shift Lock key is also mechanical, pressing down the Shift keys.
Now, I do think that there have been many different mechanisms used for typewriters throughout the years, so how this one works is not completely representative of how others do.
BTW, the typewriter is not ISO layout at all. The shifted layout is very different from most computer keyboards. It is in Swedish layout with ÅÄÖ where ,./ are in US-ANSI and it has a Return key in the lower right corner ... but it was very satisfying to type on.

User avatar
Chyros

14 Sep 2016, 21:46

kbdfr wrote: This is a very modern typewriter compared to the one I learnt typing on,
but the technology hadn't changed much :lol:
Wow. That might actually be faster than a printer from that time Oo .

User avatar
mecano

14 Sep 2016, 22:51

Dunno why I have this souvenir of the return key allowing the carriage to lift up and automatically return to his start position without using the lever, it was on a mechanical typewritter in the late 70's, maybe such model did exist or did I just wished it didn't need the lever to be pushed back?
And now that kbdfr talks about it, memories about the shift key are coming back =) and how the whole assembly jumped when hitting the space bar :)

User avatar
mecano

15 Sep 2016, 13:50

andrewjoy wrote: The iso layout should be history , because the UNIX layout is vastly superior :P
so true for me too, but the famous ADM-3A terminal got it wrong with the home row arrows :/

User avatar
y11971alex

19 Sep 2016, 17:02

IBM Selectric didn't quite have return next to P, but it was close enough. ISO return is basically rectangular with a lower portion to cover the gap due to staggering.
Image

User avatar
OleVoip

19 Sep 2016, 18:29

y11971alex wrote: ISO return is basically rectangular with a lower portion to cover the gap due to staggering.
With some ISO keyboards, the return key is perfectly rectangular and a stepped letter key covers the gap.

The upright ISO return was prescribed for electric typewriters since ISO 1091:1977, of which a precursor recommendation ISO/R 1091 existed since 1969. In reaction to that, German DIN required it for electric typewriters (DIN 2127) and computer keyboards (DIN 2139) since 1976. Those standard also incorporated the changes required by ISO 2126:1975 (precursor ISO/R 2126 since 1971), which introduced the extra keys in rows B (adjacent to left Shift) and C (adjacent to Return).
Last edited by OleVoip on 19 Sep 2016, 23:08, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Griffy

19 Sep 2016, 22:34

mondalaci wrote: It seems to me that the L-shaped Enter key was completely arbitrarily designed with no thought of ergonomics.
Not true!

The amazing feeling of pounding that huge key from a meter up in the air and with almost no aiming is so satisfying. My Lenovo has a lilac return-key on an otherwise black keyboard and its kinda big, I love to smash the shit out of it making a ruckus in the office even if Im just doin some macros in excel. There my closest colleague sits with a chiclet-style modern mac "keyboard" lol. Im thinking of getting blue switches for the numpad also.

Totally knew what they were doin. :mrgreen:

User avatar
Orpheo

21 Sep 2016, 22:30

True that! Seriously having this real estate for the pinky flying at the extremity of your arm is a very nice commodity.

User avatar
mecano

24 Sep 2016, 17:07

Try to use an 1U enter key and witness there are no differences in usefulness!
Your pinky will develop extraneous precision skill you can then put in use to get yummy worms from under tree barks like this little guy:
Daubentonia madagascariensis
Daubentonia madagascariensis
aiai3.jpg (25.19 KiB) Viewed 2475 times
Of course you can live on Oreos and smash that ISO enter key while the only member of his genre is disapearing :mrgreen:

Post Reply

Return to “Keyboards”