History of Meta Key

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

The Meta key first appeared on SAIL Keyboard around 1970.

SAIL keyboard b1c80-s306x204
SAIL Keyboard

Its function is similar to the Control Key, for entering modified keycodes.

It subsequently appeared on other Lisp Machine Keyboards

space_cadget_1st_gen_gg3nn-s250
Space Cadet
symbolics_keyboard_pn_365407_348de-s250
Symbolics keyboard PN 365407

It also appeared on Sun Microsystems keyboard.

Sun Microsystems Type 6 Keyboard 487dP-s250
Sun Microsystems Type 6, 1990s

then, it became Apple's Command key or the Apple key. [see Apple Keyboard History ⌨]

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

And it became Windows key on Microsoft keyboards and operating system. First appearance is probably the Microsoft Natural Keyboard

Microsoft Natural Keyboard Gen1 s289x217
Microsoft Natural, 1994

Meta key in emacs

The meta key, today is survived by emacs. Emacs is the only app that rely on it extensively, and kept using the jargon meta key. [see Emacs: What is Meta Key]

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