Arrow Keys History

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

First Keyboard with Embedded Arrow Keys

Who invented the arrow keys?

The first keyboard to have embedded arrow keys is probably SAIL Keyboard. 1970. Although not dedicated arrow keys. It has arrows embedded on J K L ; :

← → ↔ ↑ ↓
j k l ; :
SAIL keyboard 1DZOu
SAIL Keyboard

The ADM-3A Terminal year 1976 is probably also a big influence.

First keyboard with dedicated arrow keys

The first to have dedicated arrows is maybe Space Cadet Keyboard (year ~1980) It has thumb keys 👍 👎 👈 👉 But these keys are not documented in manual. Not used by default.

space-cadet keyboard 12
Space Cadet Keyboard featuring thumb up/down/left/right. 👍 👎 👈 👉.

Arrow Keys Arrangement

Inverted T

first inverted T arrangement is probably DEC LK201 keyboard, 1983.

LK201 arrows W3rsk-s300
LK201 arrows

left down up right

First is probably ADM-3A terminal, 1976

ADM-3A keyboard arrows 6gZ8H
ADM-3A Terminal keyboard [image source https://vintagecomputer.ca/lear-siegler-adm-3a-terminal/]

up down left right

DEC VT100 arrow keys 2013-08-30 ZB5qT
DEC VT100 Terminal arrow keys year 1978

left right down up

apple keyboard arrows t6t4J
Arrow keys on Apple IIe, 1983

Cross

arrow xerox 1109 lisp kbd 2019-11-16 v7tzv
Arrow keys of LISPM Keyboard Year ?

Diamond

SORD M5 PC 7fa71
SORD M5 PC, 1982 [image source [ 2018-09-29 https://twitter.com/GameRunHk/status/1046070623133462533 ]]
SEGA SC-3000 PC QB3bk
SEGA SC-3000 PC, year 1983 [image source [ 2018-09-29 https://twitter.com/GameRunHk/status/1046070623133462533 ]]
Nintendo Family Computer HVC-007 f8JxF
Nintendo Family Computer HVC-007 (1985?) [2020-08-25 https://twitter.com/Daihuku0015/status/1296749692118654977 ]
arrows NEC PC-9801 z44pg-2
arrow keys of NEC PC-9801 Keyboard, 1992
arrows ms natural elite grzcr
arrows on Microsoft natural elite, 1998 to 2004 see Microsoft Natural Keyboard

Horizontal Diamond

Arrows Square

Atari 800 Computer FL arrows sdVnG
Atari 800 Computer FL arrows, year 1979
IBM 3276 keyboard sdCCp
keyboard from IBM 3276 Display Station. Year 1979? [image source https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?t=1113]

Split Arrows

Efficiency of Arrow Keys Arrangement

Arrow Keys Arrangement Efficiency: vim HJKL vs IJKL

[history of the inverted T arrow key arrangement on keyboard By Jim Burrows. At http://www.eldacur.com/~brons/NerdCorner/InverseT-History.html ]

2018-07 thanks to Marcin Wichary


2018-07-12 to read [The Keys To Success. A lot of early video game consoles secretly wanted to be home computers, too: Their makers either sold keyboard add-ons or failed miserably in the process. By Ernie Smith. At https://tedium.co/2017/04/27/video-games-keyboards-intellivision/ ]

Arrow Keys

Xah Keyboard Guide