Control Key and Capslock Key Positions in Old Keyboards

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Older keyboards have Control key right besides the A, then Microsoft screwed it up.

This is false. In fact, the first IBM PC's had the Ctrl key to the left of the A. Later on, IBM released the IBM PC/AT with a Caps Lock favored keyboard. Other people blame Microsoft because they pushed all those other useless keys on the world.

There is also a bit of a myth that the old mainframe keyboards were consistent in putting the Ctrl key to the left of the A. Actually, the original PC keyboards were the anomaly. Prior to the PC most printing and display terminals had the Caps Lock in the position where it is today. This includes classics such as the DEC VT52 and VT100 terminals; IBM data display terminals such as the IBM2741 and IBM5253. Many of IBM's early small computers that predate the IBM PC had a mix of keyboard styles. Many non-PC personal computers of the time had the Caps Lock to the left of the A: TRS-80, BBC Micro, Osborne 1, Commodore Vic-20, and Commodore C=64. The Apple II series had the Ctrl key in the proper location to the left of the A key, but sadly, the original Macintosh did not — it was afflicted with the Caps Lock (and this was before the IBM PC/AT went to the Enhanced keyboard). The Atari computers had the proper Ctrl key, but their keyboards were horrible membrane things. The BeBox had Caps Lock; Next had Ctrl.

[by “noahspurrier”, , from a comment on The Idiocy of the Happy Hacking Keyboard.]

Let's look at some photos.

IBM 2741 Printing Terminal, 1965

IBM 2741 printing terminal, 1965.

IBM 2741 printing terminal APL keyboard 56160
IBM 2741 printing terminal. [image source File:IBM2741.JPG ]
APL keyboard layout
APL keyboard layout. image source

The IBM 2741 was a printing computer terminal introduced in 1965. Compared to the teletypewriter machines that were commonly used as printing terminals at the time, the 2741 offered slightly higher speed, much higher quality printing, interchangeable type fonts, and both upper and lower case alphabets. It was used primarily with the IBM System/360 series of computers and was influential in the development and popularity of the APL programming language.

[see How to Create a APL or Math Symbols Keyboard Layout]

[see IBM Selectric and Keycaps]

DEC VT52 Terminal, 1975

Digital Equipment DEC VT52 Terminal, 1975.

DEC VT78 terminal. (it uses the same keyboard and housing as VT52) (img src
DEC vt78 terminal keyboard
DEC VT78 terminal keyboard. (source: [Comments on the Keyboard of the IBM PC By John J G Savard. At , accessed on 2013-03-21 ])

DEC VT100 Terminal, 1978

VT100, 1978, and variant VT102.

DEC VT100 terminal 2013-08-30 7ea01a58
DEC VT100 terminal. 〔photo by Jason Scott ©2776×2464

Here, we see that both Caps Lock and Ctrl are in the same row, with Caps Lock closer to A.

For more photos, see DEC VT100 Terminal

Apple IIe (1983)

Apple IIe

Apple IIe keyboard
Apple IIe. (img src

All Macintosh series (started in 1984) has Caps Lock besides A, possibly except the first 1 model.

Apple Macintosh 512 keyboard 18366
Apple Macintosh 512 keyboard. (photo by Muirium. image source)

Lisp Machine Keyboards (1980s)

Symbolics keyboard
Symbolics Keyboard PN 364000. (Photo by webwit At Used with permission.)
Symbolics's Lisp Machine keyboard PN 365407 Rev C. (Photo by Joey Devilla. Used with permission.)

For more, see: Lisp Machine Keyboards.

IBM PC Keyboards

{IBM PC model 5150 (1981)}, {IBM PC XT (1983), 83 keys} and {IBM PC AT (1987), 84 keys} all have Ctrl besides A. But after that, all has Caps Lock.

IBM PC model 5150 Keyboard, 1981

IBM PC 5150 Keyboard 56536
IBM Personal Computer model 5150 keyboard. Introduced in 1981. (photo by McSeagull at…)

The IBM Personal Computer, commonly known as the IBM PC, is the original version and progenitor of the IBM PC compatible hardware platform. It is IBM model number 5150, and was introduced on August 12, 1981.

IBM Personal Computer

IBM AT Keyboard, 1984

IBM AT keyboard
IBM AT keyboard. 1984. 2160×1350 image source

After IBM AT, vast majority of keyboards are PC compatible keyboard as we know today, and Caps Lock is where it is today. There are only a few exceptions: The Sun Microsystems Type 6 Keyboard and Happy Hacking Keyboard and many other Ergonomic Keyboards have their own arrangement (such as moving Ctrl to the thumb position.)

IBM Model M type 3192-G keyboard, 1985

IBM Model M type 3192-G keyboard 1985
IBM Model M type 3192-G keyboard, 1985. (photo by Vance Morris image source)

Note: IBM Model M type 3192-G keyboard doesn't have any Ctrl key. It's used with IBM mainframe.

see IBM Model M keyboard

Commodore 64 (1982)

Commodore 64 computer 2 s
Commodore 64. 4160×2060


Michael Lockhart adds the following:

I used to swap between using Masters at school and playing on my friend's Amiga… both computers had both of these keys on the home row before A, but swapped 😉


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  6. ADM-3A Terminal
  7. DEC VT100 Terminal
  8. IBM Model M keyboard
  9. Sun Microsystems Type 6 Keyboard
  10. Control Key and Capslock Key Positions in Old Keyboards
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Keyboard Keys Topic

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  4. Keyboard Page Key
  5. Print Screen, SysRq, ScrLk, Pause, Break Keys
  6. Control Key and Capslock Key Positions in Old Keyboards
  7. Keyboard Evolution: Zoom Button, Dedicated Keys
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  9. Keyboard Modifier Keys, Short Survey
  10. Why Function Keys F1 F2 Are Useful
  11. Keyboard Menu/App Key
  12. Backspace Key: Key Label's Influence on Key Purpose
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