SAIL Keyboard

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

SAIL Keyboard. (SAIL = Stanford AI Lab.) Dated about before 1974.

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SAIL keyboard. 4708×3134 [image source flickr, by Marcin Wichary ©]

SAIL keyboard is for the Stanford AI lab Datadisc and III displays connected to the PDP-10 computer running WAITS.

Note, SAIL was started in 1963 by John McCarthy (inventor of LISP programing language) , after he moved from Massachusetts Institute of Technology to Stanford.

SAIL was one of the leading centers for AI research and an early ARPANET site.

[see Practical Emacs Lisp]

[see On Lisp]

SAIL keyboard 3baa6
SAIL keyboard [Photo by Marcin Wichary]

Interesting notes:

• short spacebar.

[see Typewriter Spacebar History]

[see Tiny Space Bar on Japanese Keyboards]

• This is the first keyboard to have the Meta key that i can find.

• This is the first keyboard to have the Alt key that i can find.

Alt Mode is the SAIL (Stanford AI Lab) printing character that looks like a tall thin concave hollow diamond. On ASCII keyboards the Escape key maps to Alt Mode.

[from Devon Sean McCullough ]

• The digit 0 key is to the left of 1. See this thread on a bit history of that.

SAIL keyboard 96232
SAIL keyboard [Photo by Marcin Wichary]

The sail keyboard was developed concurrently with the Data Disc display system and was retrofitted on the III displays. In addition to providing the traditional SHIFT and CONTROL keys, this keyboard had a TOP key that selected an alternate character for each key and a META key that could be used alone or in conjunction with the CONTROL key to give alternate meanings to various keystrokes. This permitted touch-typing of a fairly large symbol set interspersed with action commands. This keyboard was copied and used by research groups at Carnegie-Mellon University and MIT and was incorporated into several commercial products. The modern “Command” and “Option” keys on the Macintosh keyboard are direct descendants of this design.

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SAIL keyboard [Photo by Marcin Wichary]

2018-07-27 thanks to Lars Brinkhoff for info on SAIL keyboard. •

Knight Keyboard

The SAIL keyboard inspired the Knight keyboard.

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Knight Keyboard

Lisp Machine

  1. Lisp Machine Keyboards
  2. SAIL Keyboard
  3. Knight Keyboard
  4. Lisp Machine LMI-CADR keyboard
  5. Space-Cadet Keyboard
  6. Symbolics Keyboard PN 364000
  7. Symbolics keyboard PN 365407
  8. Racal-Norsk KPS-10 Lisp Prototype Keyboard
  9. History of Emacs and vi Keys
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