Author Topic: Thoughts on Japanese keycaps  (Read 5732 times)

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Offline c3h

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Thoughts on Japanese keycaps
« on: Wed, 19 June 2019, 02:33:58 »
Nowadays we see many keycaps with Japanese legends in the community, but I have yet to see a ‘proper’ Japanese keyset; including those in the international kit. Sure, it may have little demand, but it wouldn’t hurt to see one. Or maybe it’s just that it is not so discussed what a ‘proper’ Japanese keyset is.

So, what is a ‘proper’ Japanese keyset? In Japan there is this thing called JIS, short for Japanese industrial standard. According to a Japanese Wikipedia page, a JIS keyboard is a keyboard that complies with the JIS X 6002 layout.

https://www.jisc.go.jp/app/jis/general/GnrJISSearch.html
(Look it up if you are interested, although it’s in Japanese)

It defines the alphas and kanas and all that but it’s not quite the keyboard as we know nowadays. The more modern looking keyboard was introduced in the late 80s by, guess who, IBM who created the legendary 5576 series.

221407-0
IBM 5576-A01, the OADG reference keyboard

Later on as Microsoft Windows became a thing, two Windows keys and a menu key gets added and with a slight modification becomes the OADG 109A standard, the modern Japanese full-keyboard layout. It also gets a mention as a reference in JIS X 4064.

221409-1
An example of a ‘proper’ Japanese key layout, complying with OADG 109A

One thing that people think to be weird about Japanese keyboards is how tiny the spacebar is. Like look at the previous example, it’s like only 2.5u! Well it actually does have some advantages such as having less rattle or wrap but that’s not the real reason it’s so short. Well, back in the days they did have Japanese spacebars that were longer. I mean Loooong.

221411-2
A keyboard for the NEC PC-8800 series. This one has blue Alps too :)

It has katakana legends instead of hiragana legends which is something more classic but still it’s just the good old JIS in terms of the kana layout. But there was this one company, Fujitsu who ‘though different’ and made a complexly different kana layout for their OASYS Japanese input system, often called the thumb-shift which later became the NICOLA layout. As the name suggests, it uses only 3 rows of alphas instead of 4, by utilizing two ‘thumb’ keys for each hand.

221413-3
Fujitsu FMT-KB205. A thumb-shift keyboard for their FM TOWNS computer. Features shift-left(シフト左), shift-right(シフト右) keys, and a somewhat awkwardly placed spacebar(空白)

Long story short, although it was a superior layout, sadly it never really caught on and is only used by some NICOLA fans nowadays. But now you see that if you remap mu-henkan(無変換) key to shift-left, henkan(変換) to shift-right, and the alphas to the corresponding kana, then you can use the NICOLA input method on a standard Japanese keyboard! How nice to have a short spacebar :P

Well... not really for most people, so what happened is,

 221415-4
Realforce first gen.

 221417-5
Realforce R2

It got longer again. Not only the Realforce. Some more examples below

 221419-6
Filco Majestouch 2
 
221421-7
ARCHISS ProgresTouch Retro

These are the most common mechanical keyboard in the market right now (except for those flash gaming ones).
Versus some older ones.

 221423-8
Cherry G80-3600. Spacebar is positioned slightly off-centre.

 221425-9
Chicony KB-3920, a common membrane keyboard.

And for a little bonus a relatively new Fujitsu board.
 
221427-10
Fujitsu FKB8540-551/G. Released in 2018. Features that good old tiny spacebar :)

So, the conclusion is... the bottom row is a total mess! There is NO such thing as a standard bottom row, and for the newer boards they don’t even have 109 keys. I see this as one of the greatest, if not the greatest obstacle to making a ‘proper’ Japanese keyset.

Offline tex_live_utility

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Re: Thoughts on Japanese keycaps
« Reply #1 on: Thu, 20 June 2019, 21:02:39 »
I don't know anything about Japanese or Japanese input into computers, but it's a shame about the bottom row lacking a standard. If there were a single standard, it might mean that smaller-sized spacebars (5u? 4u?) and stabilizers would be easier to find, which would open up a bunch of different layout options for us nerds.
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Offline c3h

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Re: Thoughts on Japanese keycaps
« Reply #2 on: Thu, 20 June 2019, 22:37:40 »
Yeah. While short spacebars often use 2u stabs which are standard and easy to find, those longer variants do come with not so standard length stabs, which I don't think you can find any aftermarket. Not that it's any harder to make, just low demand I guess.

Offline stoic-lemon

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Re: Thoughts on Japanese keycaps
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 20 June 2019, 23:53:55 »
Very interesting writeup. Thanks.

Offline Sup

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Re: Thoughts on Japanese keycaps
« Reply #4 on: Mon, 24 June 2019, 12:45:52 »
Super weird layout. I had a JIS Real force pretty dope board. The space bar is the only thing that bothered me so much because it's for left handed use >:(.
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Offline Sintpinty

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Re: Thoughts on Japanese keycaps
« Reply #5 on: Tue, 02 July 2019, 15:41:25 »
Nowadays we see many keycaps with Japanese legends in the community, but I have yet to see a ‘proper’ Japanese keyset; including those in the international kit. Sure, it may have little demand, but it wouldn’t hurt to see one. Or maybe it’s just that it is not so discussed what a ‘proper’ Japanese keyset is.

So, what is a ‘proper’ Japanese keyset? In Japan there is this thing called JIS, short for Japanese industrial standard. According to a Japanese Wikipedia page, a JIS keyboard is a keyboard that complies with the JIS X 6002 layout.

https://www.jisc.go.jp/app/jis/general/GnrJISSearch.html
(Look it up if you are interested, although it’s in Japanese)

It defines the alphas and kanas and all that but it’s not quite the keyboard as we know nowadays. The more modern looking keyboard was introduced in the late 80s by, guess who, IBM who created the legendary 5576 series.

(Attachment Link)
IBM 5576-A01, the OADG reference keyboard

Later on as Microsoft Windows became a thing, two Windows keys and a menu key gets added and with a slight modification becomes the OADG 109A standard, the modern Japanese full-keyboard layout. It also gets a mention as a reference in JIS X 4064.

(Attachment Link)
An example of a ‘proper’ Japanese key layout, complying with OADG 109A

One thing that people think to be weird about Japanese keyboards is how tiny the spacebar is. Like look at the previous example, it’s like only 2.5u! Well it actually does have some advantages such as having less rattle or wrap but that’s not the real reason it’s so short. Well, back in the days they did have Japanese spacebars that were longer. I mean Loooong.

(Attachment Link)
A keyboard for the NEC PC-8800 series. This one has blue Alps too :)

It has katakana legends instead of hiragana legends which is something more classic but still it’s just the good old JIS in terms of the kana layout. But there was this one company, Fujitsu who ‘though different’ and made a complexly different kana layout for their OASYS Japanese input system, often called the thumb-shift which later became the NICOLA layout. As the name suggests, it uses only 3 rows of alphas instead of 4, by utilizing two ‘thumb’ keys for each hand.

(Attachment Link)
Fujitsu FMT-KB205. A thumb-shift keyboard for their FM TOWNS computer. Features shift-left(シフト左), shift-right(シフト右) keys, and a somewhat awkwardly placed spacebar(空白)

Long story short, although it was a superior layout, sadly it never really caught on and is only used by some NICOLA fans nowadays. But now you see that if you remap mu-henkan(無変換) key to shift-left, henkan(変換) to shift-right, and the alphas to the corresponding kana, then you can use the NICOLA input method on a standard Japanese keyboard! How nice to have a short spacebar :P

Well... not really for most people, so what happened is,

  (Attachment Link)
Realforce first gen.

  (Attachment Link)
Realforce R2

It got longer again. Not only the Realforce. Some more examples below

  (Attachment Link)
Filco Majestouch 2
 
(Attachment Link)
ARCHISS ProgresTouch Retro

These are the most common mechanical keyboard in the market right now (except for those flash gaming ones).
Versus some older ones.

  (Attachment Link)
Cherry G80-3600. Spacebar is positioned slightly off-centre.

  (Attachment Link)
Chicony KB-3920, a common membrane keyboard.

And for a little bonus a relatively new Fujitsu board.
 
(Attachment Link)
Fujitsu FKB8540-551/G. Released in 2018. Features that good old tiny spacebar :)

So, the conclusion is... the bottom row is a total mess! There is NO such thing as a standard bottom row, and for the newer boards they don’t even have 109 keys. I see this as one of the greatest, if not the greatest obstacle to making a ‘proper’ Japanese keyset.

What’s the point if I don’t know how to speak or utilize Japanese and French?