Happy Hacking Keyboard

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Happy Hacking
Part number
  • PD-KB02/S
  • PD-KB02/P
  • PD-KB02/M
Branding Happy Hacking Keyboard
Manufacturer PFU
Layouts 60-key modified US ANSI
Keyswitches Rubber dome
Weight 520g

The Happy Hacking Keyboard (styled HHKB) is a family of rubber dome keyboards targeted towards computer hackers as well as UNIX users, with a seminal ultra-compact multi-layer layout. The original 1996 model and the subsequent Lite family use conventional rubber dome switches, while the Professional range introduced in 2003 moved to high quality Topre electrostatic capacitive switches.


Happy Hacking Keyboard was co-developed by PFU and Dr. Eiiti Wada. Dr. Wada is a Japanese computer pioneer as well as a emeritus professor at University of Tokyo whom suggested a compact/minimal keyboard layout for use on computers in favour of the various other keyboards that were commercially available at the time.

Dr. Wada noticed the changes with each and every release of Sun workstation comes with a keyboard that has subtle changes in the layout along with the lack of standardisation with keyboards in general. Dr. Wada had contacts in PFU and so the journey of HHKB design began with the first technical review.

In the first technical review, Dr. Wada proposed the idea of swapping the Caps Lock key with Ctrl key due to the very natured way of how UNIX treats case-sensitivity. In his paper he indicated and cross referenced for instance that when typing the 'ls' command, it is not similar to 'LS'. The 'ls' command on UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems is equivalent to a directory listing (on DOS/Windows it is similar to the command 'dir'). This change was implemented on a "Alpha keyboard". He later resented the idea of having number pads and arrow keys on the keyboard which further reinforced the idea of a more compact layout that is now only found on HHKB Professional2, HHKB Professional HG as well as early HHKB Professional and Lite variants.

Amongst the Ctrl key being swapped, the idea of having the Esc key is too far away on a normal keyboard which he disliked. As a result of the Ctrl key also being swapped, it seemed harder to hit Del key in addition to the fact with the Sun Type 4 keyboard having the Backspace key above the Yen and bar (¥ |) keys. So a backspace was favoured instead.

TODO: Better translations for reasons with Meta and Function keys.

This then progressed onto another technical review of the keyboard in which Dr. Wada named it the "Aleph keyboard". At this point in time Sun Type 3 and Sun Type 4 had good layouts. The idea of inverted trapezoid (for mainly the alphabetical keys) in staggered formation was better to follow it. The inverted trapezoid layout for alphabetical keys would mean a transition from the JIS layout to ANSI layout whereby the Enter key for instance is shaped differently compared to JIS (JIS being using the same shape as ISO layout for Enter key).

TODO: Some more reasons explained by Dr. Wada but cannot be understood.

At this point in time Dr. Wada wrote a poor piece of article in a magazine however PFU understood what Dr. Wada wanted with his ideal layout. Dr. Wada then focused on working out the dimensions of the keyboard which was 297mm × 105mm which was more or less fit within the dimensions of a A4 paper. Dr. Wada decided to retain the standard key pitch which was 3/4 inches or 19.05mm.

TODO: More translation work needed.

At this point in time Aoyama suggested the location of the Fn key which enabled access to Function and arrow keys.

TODO: Finish the remaining abstraction.


The very first HHKB featured a detachable connector and was available in three different connectors (followed by their applicable part numbers).

PFU Model Number Connector Number of Keys Layout Total Weight (without cable) Release Date Discontinued Date
PD-KB02/S SUN 60 Modified US ANSI 520g 20-12-1996 27-12-2005
PD-KB02/P PS/2 60 Modified US ANSI 520g 20-12-1996 27-12-2005
PD-KB02/M ADB 60 Modified US ANSI 520g 07-11-1997 27-12-2005

Happy Hacking Keyboard was launched on the December 20, 1996[2] with no indications of the price and was discontinued on December 27, 2005 following the announcement to cease production on December 12, 2005.[3] At the time of the launch Happy Hacking Keyboard did not come out with Mac compatibility. This feature was later added on November 7, 1997.[4] The Mac variant (PD-KB02/M) with the ¥29,800 (Japanese Yen) price tag was also discontinued on December 27, 2005. These keyboards were built to comply with Dr. Wada's ideal compact keyboard with some slight variations to the overall design.

Among the ideas that Dr. Wada did not propose for instance was the amount of various connectors available for the keyboard alone.

On January 12, 1999 PFU saw a favourable reception from HHKB owners and applied price cuts of up to 33%. The revised price tag for any of the three Happy Hacking Keyboards was ¥19,800 with any extra connectors priced at ¥3,000 each.[5]

PFU Systems (previously known as PFU America and with site previously registered as pfuca.com) showcased the Happy Hacking Keyboard at three exhibitions in 1998:

  • USENIX'98 product exhibition on June 15-16, 1998 in Marriott Hotel, New Orleans, Louisiana[6][7]
  • 1998 Atlanta Linux Showcase Conference and Exhibition on Friday, October 23 and Saturday, October 24, 1998 in Atlanta Apparel Mart, Atlanta, Georgia[8][9][10]
  • LISA '98 Exhibition on December 9-10, 1998 in Marriott Copley Place Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts[11]

PFU Systems also priced the Happy Hacking Keyboard at $189[12] initially with a choice of one of three cables available. Additional cables were priced at $30 each and none of these included the Californian sales tax. Later on, the keyboard was discounted to $139[13]

Further information about Happy Hacking Keyboard such as the keyboard design and actuation force, etc. was made available on the old PFU America web site in English:

A Linux Journal (formerly known as Linux Gazette) review[14] was made available briefly discussing Happy Hacking Keyboard compatibility with Linux. It first appeared on Issue 35, December 1998 and was acknowledged on PFU America's website.

On May 28, 1999 PFU Systems provided 20 free Happy Hacking Keyboards to graduate students between January 1 and June 30, 1999 in the US. Graduate students completing their degree during the same time period were also eligible.[15]

On December 10, 2006 PFU Systems declared Happy Hacking Keyboard as End-Of-Life.[16]


PFU America released a whole bunch of accessories at one time for Happy Hacking Keyboard and subsequently Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite.[17]


From then onwards came the introduction of Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite on October 13, 1999[18] aimed at reducing the cost of owning a compact and unique keyboard. Subsequently on March 21, 2001[19] Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 was introduced and the series expanded on October 8, 2001[20], October 12, 2002[21] and June 10, 2004[22] respectively. Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional was introduced on April 24, 2003[23] and the series expanded on February 14, 2005[24], March 24, 2006[25], November 10, 2008[26] and June 15, 2011[27] respectively.

The Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite series were rated around 10-20 million actuations minimum (Lite was 20 million actuations, Lite 2 is 10 million actuations) whereas the Happy Hacking Keyboard Professional series were rated around 30 million actuations minimum.

Product ranges

  • HHKB Lite range of rubber dome over membrane keyboards aimed at reducing the cost of owning Happy Hacking Keyboard.
  • HHKB Professional range of capacitive keyboards featuring Topre switches aimed at professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Production numbers

Estimated production numbers based on extensive serial number inspection are as follows (serial number inspection was undertaken via aucfree.com, an archive site for Japan's Yahoo! Auctions, which held records from June 2015 until around mid 2019, when it closed):

PD-KB300 - Professional 1 (White Printed) - 5000 units

PD-KB300NL - Professional 1 (White Blank) - 1800 units (initially PFU only planned to produce 100 of these[28])

PD-KB300B - Professional 1 (Black Printed) - 2300 units

PD-KB300BN - Professional 1 (Black Blank) - 900 units (unique in that it does not bear the HHKB logo on the chassis' lower right corner)


  1. wide.ad.jp - Dr. Wada's homepage
  2. PFU website - What's New: Programmer's small keyboard "Happy Hacking Keyboard" launch (Japanese only)
  3. PFU website - What's New: 2005 News (Japanese only)
  4. PFU website - Compatible with Macintosh became more easy to use, personal computers and workstations for compact keyboard "Happy Hacking Keyboard" (Japanese only)
  5. PFU website - Compact keyboard for workstation become more affordable (Japanese only)
  6. (Wayback machine) pfuca.com - News & Events Index
  7. (Wayback machine) pfuca.com - USENIX REPORT
  8. (Wayback machine) pfuca.com - News & Events Index
  9. (Wayback machine) pfuca.com - Linux Showcase Report
  10. (Wayback machine) ale.org - 1998 Atlanta Linux Showcase
  11. (Wayback machine) pfuca.com - News & Events Index
  12. Linux Journal - Happy Hacking Keyboard
  13. (Wayback Machine) pfuca.com - Happy Hacking Order Form
  14. (Wayback machine) Linux Gazette - Happy Hacking Keyboard product review
  15. (Wayback machine) pfuca.com - FREE KEYBOARDS FOR GRADS !
  16. (Wayback machine) pfusystems.com - HHKB specs
  17. (Wayback machine) pfuca.com - Accessories Index
  18. PFU website - What's New: Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite (Japanese only)
  19. PFU website - What's New: Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 (Japanese only)
  20. PFU website - What's New: Add new models to Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 (Japanese only)
  21. PFU website - Press release: Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite2 series expansion (Japanese only)
  22. PFU website - Press release: Happy Hacking Keyboard Lite 2 no kana engraved model (Japanese only)
  23. PFU website - Press release: Happy Hacking Professional (Japanese only)
  24. PFU website - Press release: Happy Hacking Professional "INK" (Japanese only)
  25. PFU website - Press release: HHKB Pro 2 (Japanese only)
  26. PFU website - Press release: HHKB Professional JP (Japanese only)
  27. PFU website - Press release: HHKB Professional Type-S (Japanese only)
  28. PCWatch - [1]

External links

The following information is available only in Japanese