Control Key and Capslock Key Positions in Old Keyboards

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Do older keyboards have Ctrl key at the position to the left of A?


IBM 2741 Printing Terminal, 1965

IBM 2741 printing terminal 1ccd8
IBM 2741 printing terminal. [image source File:IBM2741.JPG ]

The key is capslock.

[see IBM 2741 Printing Terminal]

[see IBM Selectric]

DEC VT52 Terminal, 1975

Digital Equipment DEC VT52 Terminal, 1975.

dec vt52 terminal bbd44-s290x216
DEC VT52 Terminal, 1975
dec vt52 keyboard 90eec
DEC VT52 keyboard

We have Ctrl CapsLock A in the same row, in that order.

DEC VT100 Terminal, 1978

DEC VT100 terminal 2013 08 30 7ea01a58 s s265x236
DEC VT100, 1978
dec vt100 keyboard layout 10caa
DEC vt100 keyboard layout. Source: VT100 User Guide, Digital Equipment Corporation, EK-VT100-UG-001 (1978).

We have Ctrl CapsLock A in the same row, in that order.

Ann Arbor Ambassador 60 Terminal, 1982

Ann Arbor Ambassador 60 terminal 1982 s217x289
Ann Arbor Ambassador 60, 1982
Ann Arbor Ambassador 60 keyboard 70db4
Ann Arbor Ambassador 60 keyboard layout

Commodore 64, 1982

Commodore 64 cee37-s405x154
Commodore 64

It has Shift Lock besides A. Its Ctrl key is at the PC keyboard's TAB key position.

Apple IIe, 1983

Apple IIe w monitor 5b7bd-s217x289
Apple IIe, 1983

All Apple II series (started in 1983) have Ctrl besides A.

Apple Macintosh, 1984

Apple Macintosh 512 keyboard 18366 s306x204
Macintosh Keyboard (M0110) (year 1984)

All Apple Macintosh series (started in 1984) have CapsLock besides A.

[see Apple Keyboard History ⌨]

Apple (Standard) Keyboard (M0116), 1987

Apple Standard Keyboard M0116 3cygw
Apple Standard Keyboard M0116 [image source]

Optionally included with the Macintosh II and SE in 1987.

Ctrl besides A.

Lisp Machine Keyboards, 1980s

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

All Lisp Machine Keyboards have Ctrl on the left of space bar. The CapsLock is somewhere on the lower left corner.

See: Lisp Machine Keyboards

IBM PC Keyboards

The original IBM PC (1981) and IBM PC XT (1983) keyboards (they are the same keyboard) has Ctrl besides A

The IBM PC AT (1984), some of its keyboard has CapsLock besides A, some has Ctrl besides A.

After that, all have CapsLock beside A

IBM PC 5150 Keyboard 56536
IBM PC original (model 5150)'s keyboard. Introduced in 1981. (photo by McSeagull at…)

see IBM PC Keyboards

see IBM Model M keyboard

After IBM PC AT, after 1984

After IBM AT, vast majority of keyboards are PC compatible keyboard as we know today, and CapsLock 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.)


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 😉

This article is inspired by a comment from “noahspurrier”, :

[Does old computer have Control on the left of A, but later Microsoft screwed it?]

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 CapsLock 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 CapsLock 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 CapsLock 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 CapsLock (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 CapsLock; Next had Ctrl.

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


Hacker Lore Keyboards

  1. IBM Selectric
  2. History of Emacs and vi Keys
  3. Apple Keyboard History ⌨
  4. Space-Cadet Keyboard
  5. ADM-3A Terminal
  6. DEC VT100 Terminal
  7. IBM Model M keyboard
  8. Sun Microsystems Type 6 Keyboard
  9. Control Key and Capslock Key Positions in Old Keyboards
  10. The Idiocy of Happy Hacking Keyboard

Keyboard Keys Topic

  1. Keyboard Big Fat Enter Key
  2. Keyboard Home/End Keys Arrangement
  3. Tiny Space Bar on Japanese Keyboards
  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
  8. Keyboards with Volume Wheel
  9. Keyboard Modifier Keys, Short Survey
  10. Why Function Keys Are Useful
  11. Keyboard Menu/App Key
  12. Backspace Key: Key Label's Influence on Key Purpose
  13. Alt Graph Key, Compose Key, Dead Key

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