Racal-Norsk KPS-10 Lisp Keyboard

By Xah Lee. Date: .

The Racal-Norsk KPS-10 Keyboard, is build around 1984. It's a prototype only, that never went to production. It was intented for a new Lisp Machine.

[see Lisp Machine Keyboards]

Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 2
Racal-Norsk KPS-10

In 1984–85 a UK firm, Racal-Norsk, a joint subsidiary of Racal and Norsk Data, attempted to repurpose Norsk Data's ND-500 supermini as a microcoded Lisp machine, running CADR software: the Knowledge Processing System (KPS).

Racal-Norsk was a UK company, a symbiosis of British Racal Electronics and Norwegian Norsk Data. The objective was to make a multi-user Lisp Machine. I got the prototype from someone who was working with Symbolics system at the time and was press-ganged into working at Racal-Norsk in lisp software.

They built a Lisp Machine based on the Norsk Data multi-port processor (ND-570 and ND-550) and MIT ZetaLisp (circa 1984/5).

The keyboard is probably the only one of its kind. One of the people who was working at the company at the time was Richard Stallman. Peter Richards was involved in the design of the keycaps. The objective was to make the ultimate lisp I/O experience, but this was the first and last prototype.

At the very time that the first Lisp image came up, Racal and Norsk pulled the plug on the company and fired everyone. The project was moth-balled and presumably sleeps in some dungeon to this day. It could have been something significant, and a ~20 man team worked away for 2 years to create a formal specification of MIT Zetalisp (for many the grand-daddy of Lisps). Racal-Norsk bought the worldwide rights to MIT Zetalisp outside the USA.

Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 7
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 4. Note the CapsLock key and its LED. And the usual lisp machine keys Alt MODE Rubout Hyper Super Meta
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 5
right side, with keys CLEAR STATUS RESUME ABORT

The yellow nature isn't the tradional yellowed plastic from sunlight, it's the nature of the prototype material.

Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 6
ESCAPE and RESET above the number pad.
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 21
Keycap and key switch mechanism.
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 8
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 14
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard and M-2 Optical Mouse.
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 15
M-2 Optical Mouse. The pad below is reflective surface, made of metal and sort of glass coating. You need the pad for the mouse to work.
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 11
back of mouse. Made by Mouse Systems.
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 10
M-2 Optical Mouse
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 9
M-2 Optical Mouse Manual
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 12
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 12
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 16
requirement spec
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 17
requirement spec
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 19
prototype spec
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 20
prototype spec
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 18
prototype spec

All photos by webwit, at https://deskthority.net/keyboards-f2/the-lisp-keyboards-t98.html Used with permission.

All quoted text are written by webwit, at https://deskthority.net/keyboards-f2/the-lisp-keyboards-t98.html

Lisp Machine Keyboards

SAIL keyboard b1c80-s306x204
lisp knight keyboard-s339x184
lmi-cadr keyboard 1st gen space cadget 31997-s289x217
Space-Cadet keyboard 2-s392x159
Xerox 1108/1109
symbolics keyboard pn364000 mrq3w-s349x179
Symbolics PN 364000
Symbolics keyboard PN 365407 130df-s349x179
Symbolics PN 365407
Racal-Norsk KPS-10 keyboard 1-s303x206
Racal-Norsk KPS-10
Lisp Machine Keyboards
Keyboard Design for the LISP Machine
History of Emacs and vi Keys