Yet another change

I remember Grade 9 Typing and Mr. Renshaw’s explanation for why the keys on the typewriter were the way they were. According to him, it was to deliberately slow you down so that you didn’t have the keys jam together and they pushed against the ribbon. We assumed that his explanation was good; fact checking wasn’t something that you did to your teachers back then.

The logic kind of fell apart when we moved to electric typewriters and the Selectric ball that could only print one character no matter how hard you tried to push two keys on the keyboard at the same time. (We weren’t always focused on this riveting subject…) The logic and arrangement were still there when we used a keypunch for programming.

It really blew apart when the computer came along. There were no keys to lock together and yet the key arrangement remained the same. It was probably then that we spun the expression “It is what it is”. About that time, somehow, I stumbled upon the Dvorak keyboard. I’m guessing it was in an edition of 80Micro because I downloaded an application that remapped my keyboard to the Dvorak layout.

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The philosophy was simple; you can increase speed and productivity if you put the most used keys on the “home row” so that you aren’t reaching all over the keyboard as the previous layout forced you. It took a great deal of practice but I eventually became pretty proficient with it. However, it was a skill that wasn’t easily transferred to every computer that I might use and it made my computer unusable for anyone else who might want to use it.

Time and technology moved on and eventually those typewriters in keyboarding classrooms got tossed and were replaced by computers. That introduced us to the whole concept of the “Standard” IBM Keyboard. One of my first projects as computer consultant was the oversight of a district wide project where we replaced all the typewriters in our system with IBM PCs. Of course, they had that standard keyboard. Life was good and we were moving along.

Then, things changed. It probably was a miniscule change at the designer level at IBM or whoever was designing the keyboards. They moved the CTRL key! You’d think that the world was coming to an end by the reaction and the almost apologetic approach of our salesperson. The CTRL key had always been where today’s CAPSLOCK key is and moved to the bottom row of the keyboard. It still had the same function but it was different. We all had to be retrained to use it. Over the time that we had had the previous standard, we’d become well versed in the concept of copying, pasting, opening a file, sending a document to the printer, etc. without having to think about where the keyboard combination lay; it became second nature. Together, we all broke the cardinal rule of typing which was to not look at the keyboard. We had to – where was that new key? I guess someone thought that they were doing us a favour by putting two of them on the keyboard but still…that was only with some keyboards.

Then, along came the Apple fan people. “Nobody” in the industry was using IBM computers; they were using Macintosh computers. Because, well, Apple really sold it well by letting you think that you were looking at an actual sheet of paper while you were keying. To ensure that diehard Macintosh people remained with the platform, they got rid of the CTRL key altogether. As we know, the same functionality was assigned to the Command key. It didn’t feel quite right because it was just a bit of a different reach. Had it been placed where the Fn key was, it wouldn’t have been such a big deal. It doubled the work for me because any instructions that I would create for a piece of software had to be translated either to or from the Apple layout. I wasn’t alone; how many times have you seen CTRL/Command + C?

Recently, the Chromebook has become a new player in the market, with a recent report that it has surpassed Apple in the number of computers in use. For this diehard PC guy, it was a piece of cake to move to the new keyboard. All the keys were in the same place. Well, all but one. Actually, a lot but only one that affects me directly! It was that strange looking key with the magnifying glass on it. I’ve heard it called the “Launcher” but I prefer the term “Search” and it replaced the CAPSLOCK key. That I didn’t mind since I don’t use CaPsLoCk much anyway. Most importantly, the CTRL and key combinations were the same as my PC or Command and key on the Macintosh.

Actually, I quite enjoy the “Search” key. It lets me search directly on the search engine of my choice or gives me a listing of all the applications on my Chromebook. I’d be happy with that.

Apparently, Google isn’t.



I had to read both articles rather slowly to really let the impact of this sink in and what does it really mean to me? I can’t imagine if any PC manufacturer or Apple would upset the apple cart (so to speak) by making such a big change.

I can only assume that the designers at Google only use Chromebooks. (and why not? The Google Chromebook is an incredible machine) But, how about those that are forced to use a number of different computers, now with one that has a different layout of keyboard functions that the others?

My guess is that most of the people that just use a Chromebook will learn the new arrangements and become pretty proficient with them. For the others, as long as the standard key combinations combined with a functioning mouse/trackpad exists, will happily use those and ignore the changes. As long as the traditional combinations exist, I don’t see it as a game changer for most. You can just move along as you always could.

I just feel for the person in school district who has to support them all!

OTR Links 03/23/2021

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.