Sun Microsystems Type 6 Keyboard

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Sun Microsystems keyboard is one of the worst. The following shows the one that is the keyboard for Sun's Ultra 5 computer (circa 2000).

Sun Microsystem's Keyboard
Sun Microsystems Type 6 Keyboard.

This keyboard i used around 2000. (photo taken during that time) The key feel is mushy, using rubber dome switch. 〔►see Guide to Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms

Sun Microsystem's Keyboard
The special function keys for {Copy, Paste, …}. Note that most of these keys have standard scancode in USB protocol. Some PC keyboards also have dedicated {Copy, Cut, Paste} keys in the 1990s, but it fell out of fashion.

Some interesting aspects:

I hardly ever use this keyboard or sit in front of this computer. So i don't know what these keys actually do. Not sure the Copy, Paste, etc keys actually work out of box in Solaris. I don't think most of these special keys do anything useful by default. The desktop on unixes at the time (CDE) is quite unusable.

X11 on Solaris. This is CDE. This is how i remember X11, ~1999. Mac OS of the time, or even Windows, is ten times better. 〔►see The Unix Pestilence〕 〔image source

Most of the time, i just telnet/ssh from the PC running Windows NT, using a generic cheap PC keyboard. This Ultra5 is used as a server, it is one of the test bed for releasing our ecommerce software.

Sun keyboard
Sun Microsystems Type 6 Keyboard.

Meta Key

The key marked with a diamond is the Meta key, a key inherited from Lisp Machine's keyboards and today mostly known for its use in Emacs. This key is called Super in Linux today, but is referred to as Meta in Sun's documentation. This key is similar in purpose to the Command key ⌘ command on Apple computer's keyboards, or the Windows key ❖ Window on PC keyboards.

See also:

Compose Key, Alt Graph Key

sun keyboard ret
The ◆ Meta, ⎄ Compose, AltGr keys

Note the Compose key and Alt Graph keys. They are both used to input special characters such as é ä ç ¿ £ ¥ ©.

See: Alt Graph Key, Compose Key, Dead Key

sun keyboard mid
Mid section close-up
sun keyboard top
Top indicator LEDS
sun keyboard right
Note it has keys for {sound level, screen brightness, power}.

The sound key and screen brightness keys seem funny to me, because i'm not sure these keys work out of the box on a typical unix workstation in the 1990s. Not sure if these machines typically have sound capabilities at all (For example, a sound card).

Xah Lee Netopia office
My Office, 2001, at Netopia.

Hacker Lore Keyboards

  1. History of Emacs and vi Keys
  2. Space-cadet, Lisp Machine Keyboards
  3. Space-cadet Keyboard
  4. How to Create APL or Math Symbols Keyboard Layout
  5. Golden Glory of a Hacker: jwz, emacs, and Ann Arbor Ambassador 60 Terminal
  6. DEC VT100 Terminal
  7. Sun Microsystems Type 6 Keyboard
  8. Control Key and Capslock Key Positions in Old Keyboards
  9. The Idiocy of Happy Hacking Keyboard