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Additional F-keys with inter-applic software vs keyboard manufacturers lunatics

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I've written about that problem several times, -ital2 (July 22, 2018, 04:12 PM)
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Luckily you can write about it once more.

-Curt (July 24, 2018, 09:20 AM)
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Let's not start this again, please?

Thank you, wraith808. I hope there's been lots of NEW elements here, though, but not everybody's interested in details, which isn't too disastrous if at least the global situation is upheld, but with kb's, that's obviously not the case, to the detriment of us all. The apple thread is here: "Apple does it again - this time, they re-invent the context-sensitive F-key", the key word being "TouchBar".

Here are some quite regular kb layouts for their time, just a little bit enhanced; nowadays, we've all lost this.

For journalists and other professions, there were even much more elaborate kb's availabe (I don't remember how the additional key assignments were done (kb-specific software and/or the specific application software and/or "external"/third-party macro-tools), and unfortunately, I don't have any version of "euroscript" left, which made use of (any available? at least all) those "regular" additional F-keys: I switched from WordStar directly to "euroscript", just used Word and WordPerfect on some occasions for output formatting, but then PageMaker and, before that, that Corel shit which they never got stable and obviously not even were willing to get stable to begin with, I don't even remember its name, so much I hate that shit and Corel - did then never bought another program from them up to this day).

I don't know if my assertion re some "regular" IBM kb with more F-keys (for some months then, I said: F-keys on the left AND on top) yesterday is true or an error of mine, and anyway, on the left there were not 12 but 10 F-keys, and not in 2 columns 1...5/6 and 6/7...10/12 but in 5 rows F1-2, 3-4, 5-6..., but here are some layouts which remained quite "regular" even, while being you could easily say "perfect" (and NOT totally overpriced, while more expensive than the really regular ones indeed): (KeyTronic KB 3270 Plus)

Left: F1...F10 (see above), on top: 2 ranges of 12 F-keys, so we're at the usual 34 addditional keys (in fact 35), compared with today's meagre 12; on this kb, the ranges on top are NOT grouped by 3x4 (3x8 then), but just in 2 ranges, with makes it necessary to visually identify those blocks by color stickers, e.g. "nothing" for the 8 keys on the left and to the right (but see below: you'd need to put stickers everywhere, but clearly distingued as 3 blocks left/centre/right), while you put 8 yellow stickers to the 2x4 keys in the center (in a similar manner, I better=faster identify the keys of my keypads, with blue stickers on the numeric keys 0...9, but with a slight adjustment: Since on the 4700 - I should get money from Cherry! -, there are TWO rows of 4 keys above the numeric block, not just one (num/divide/multiply/minus) like regularly, and I wanted, for other things than within a 3x3 block, keys immediately availabe, i.e. not on top of the device, but near its bottom: Thus, I shifted the 3x3 block (1...9) one row higher (blue stickers, NOT for digits but keys within a 3x3 block are immediately identifiyable for anything, by their position IF that block is visually clearly distinguished from the rest of keys), and then, the original 1, 2, 3 keys as explained above: red sticker for cut, yellow for copy and green (ditto, as said, for the comma key beneath it) for insert: Such (clearly distinguished, hence the unifiedly-blue-colored (shifted) 1...9 block: with too many colors all mixed up, the speeding-up value of colors is quickly lost again) color stickers are a BIG help for fast typing since most of the time, it's not entirely blind typing on such devices (upper row: 2 yellow stickers, then 2 green ones, similar for my 12 stickers on my 12 F-keys on top of the "abc" since, as said, in a 3x3 block, or in any 1-2-3 row, the keys are immediately identifyable by their position, while a 4rd key within a block/row slows down your key pressing.

The descriptions in this link are very instructive since there's numerous "protocols", including one "XT Protocol" in "Native/Irma/Enhanced mode", and so it seems that there probably WAS some IBM  XT kb for some months with had (not 6 but) 10 F-keys on the left, and (not 24 but 12) F-keys on the top. I didn't get it yet, but there's highly instructive info there.

All this is obviously lost on people who today try to ridicule the "old times" and incl. what those had to offer really good; it's similar for many a devices' ancient build quality vs todays' devices often dying after 13 months when legal responsibility of the vendor is 12 months, and where electronics are often built on purpose in a way that heating elements destroy neighboring elements sensitive to heat: most manufacturers weren't as cynical as that yet in those times.

But I said "a blind key in the centre of the arrow cross" (shifting the down-arrow 1 row down, compared to today (and in fact's it's the other way round, they shifted that arrow key up, unfortunately) and which is helpful in many situations, see above), and my links prove that (at least for the better kb's of that day) that's NOT the case: that's additional key number 35 from above, and it's evident that this centre key is of tremendous utility, as a second "home" key or then, according to your work situation, as a second arrow-down key, or for whatever you'll need in immediate reach!

From the above, it's already become obvious that today's kb manufacturers make us eat shit, and they can do so since old times are ridiculed by many, and we all buy these totally inacceptable devices (inacceptable since there's PROOF it can be done so much better), instead of systematically refusing anything non-acceptable, which in practice would mean that re kb's, nobody should buy any other "regular" kb anymore, but at least prefer those at least SOME additional F-keys, and then manufacturers would begin to re-introduce more F-keys in order to compete on that field.

An NCR XT/AC "switchable" kb; in don't know for sure if this "switchable" here means that you either have the F1...10 keys at the left at your disposal OR the F-keys 11...30 on top (similar for some of the many additional F-keys in the link above, according to its "current" setup then). I cite this example for 2 reasons: Again, you see the additional, central key in the arrow block, and, yesterday, I spoke of an additional key "beneath it all", in order to use it with your thumb, in immediate reach of the (according to application / work situation, reassigned) kb-integrated numpad; here we have the capslock key in an almost similar position, for possible thumb use in combination with your other fingers on the arrow keys (in this specific example: if you reassign the central home key to arrow-down, reassigning the arrow-down key to other uses. Also, your regular capslock key of today is the control key here, and there's no need whatsoever to discuss any alleged utility of the capslock key at its "regular" position, it's only the question WHAT functionality you would like have to get there instead which's debatable.

Finally, a "classic" "just-a-little-bit-enhanced" kb by ITT, with the 10 F-keys to the left, the 24 (instead of 12) F-keys on top, again a working central key within the arrow cross, and again an additional "function" key positioned for (or, in fact, positioned in a way that you could probably make use of it that way, see above) thumb use - I insist on the fact for BOTH the arrows cross (which isn't even a cross anymore nowadays as explained above) AND the kb's numpad, respective THUMB KEYS (at least 1 each) would of tremendous utility.

Btw, that additional key here has the inscription "Dateifreigabe" and was probably meant for manual "transactioning", i.e. doing a block of connected commands, by kb and on screen, but which were all withheld, then visual screen check, then only triggering the whole "transaction" by pressing that key.

And, you see here that the 24 F-keys on top all come with their own comment field, and yes, in those times cardboard templates were available, for different "setups" / layers applied to different applications / work situations; these keys, and their comments, were somewhat tilted into the direction of the user, for one in order for them to more easily read those hints, and secondly, also, for facilitating key pressing, the necessary reaching out of your fingers being reduced by the inclination. (I have spoken above of the importance of the hints being near their respective keys, and of course, having these hints not on-screen but as near to the keys as in this - quite perfect - example is the optimal solution, at least for the - "ever-changing" - F-keys 1...24 on top, just 2 lcd "films" instead of cardboard; and always, the "nearer" F1...12 are in the bottom row, the "more remote" F13...24 are in the top row; also, for right-handers, the "more important", ie the more frequently used commands/macros should be assigned, by preference, to the right part of these 24 keys, so "logical grouping" (ie process-connected commands should be in each other's vicinity) would decide upon some frequently-used "key" (function) being assigned to the bottom row (even for left hand triggering) or probably in (farer-away but) top row, but for right-hand use.

On the other hand and as said, the additional F-keys to the left of the kb are there for "manual batch use", not for replacing missing F-keys on top, and that implies that for such batch use, you will probably know/remember the respective key assignments: I use the 4700 extensively, but then, again and again for just some applications (except for some "global" keys there I would have much preferred  being on top of my kb anyway), for the same work situation, so I don't really need visual hints for them (while only the internal commands my differ, as in the example above: ^f vs ^n for "new folder" in different applications, but that should not be the problem of the user, for whom it should be the same key). Ditto for my key assignments to the kb-internal numpad: For one, there's lots of functionaly relegated over there since simply I don't have the - necessary! - keys on top of my kb (the F13...24 missing there), and then, there's batches, often duplicated from the (left-hand) 4700, for speed reasons; again my example for FSIV: in the tree (pane), num1...9 assign the current folder as target, in the thumbs pane (and also in the full-size, called "preview" pane), the same ONE-key num1...9 assigns the current pic to that target folder: smart 1-key assignments avoid key combinations...

Thus, for your keypads (of which the permanent visual representation on screen would take much too much of very valuable screen real estate, not speaking of the looks), a 1-key toggle for "display the current key assignments of all (other) additional keys (ie excluding F1...24 on top), in some big window just on top of all others" (and given there's 24 top F-keys available, not only 12), ie NOT taking permanent screen space, would be the best solution after all, while the F1...24 on top (and of which the current assinments would be a lot less "predictable" whenever it's not a very common application / work situation) should "tell" their current function permanently, ideally by on-key lcd's (replacing the cardboard template in my last example above), or on-screen in last resort: most people have accepted, application-specific, so-called "ribbons" on top of their screens, so why shouldn't they accept another overall, application-independent (but, among other things, application-sensitive) ribbon at its bottom, if its heigh is just around 2 cm, but the distinction between the keys of row 1 and 2 (e.g. F13 and F1) will be clearly hampered, (the lcd version of) my example 3 (where the keys separate the respective hints) would be much faster in the end.

In the old days, software was lacking so that the general public could profit from such a setup; for special-business use only, the "numbers" were obviously insufficient in order to come down with manufacturing prices - also, see the chaotic scan code assignment to the additional keys of those special kb's of the time, hinted at in my first example above. As for sex change, you can run into deep (throat) trouble even without, this link showing off a current, very amusing example:


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