Author Topic: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?  (Read 1916 times)

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Offline Gepriester

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Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« on: Sun, 17 January 2021, 07:12:17 »
I've just accepted the fact that F5-F8 are usually mod colored and the rest ist alpha-num colored. Is there a specific reason for this? Wouldn't it make more sense if they were all mod colored?

Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 17 January 2021, 07:57:05 »
I've always understood it to be a throwback to the days of early mechs ala Model F or M, OG Cherry keyboards, etc.

I think it makes sense for keycaps that have that aesthetic like 9009, Muted, Classic Beige. But for more modern sets I think matching F row or mod colored can both work.

Offline Gepriester

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Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #2 on: Mon, 18 January 2021, 15:42:12 »
That's also what I thought. Maybe we'll see some interesting new color arrangements soon :)

Offline funkmon

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Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #3 on: Mon, 18 January 2021, 22:13:50 »
This is a great question; I wonder if anyone knows. As we know, the Models F use a left side function layout, and Models M use the colourscheme and layout we all know and love.

I can speculate that they are coloured differently to make an easy visual way of distinguishing between which set of four keys you're about to press, but I don't think it's needed, since the physical distance between them should have been enough for that.

Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #4 on: Fri, 22 January 2021, 06:30:16 »
This was bugging me so I did some Google searches seeing if someone wrote some history on this, and the search results all come up with what the purpose or function of the F row is. The first Google result with a bunch of different searches is actually this thread  :eek:

This might actually be a good question for Deskthority.

Offline quadibloc

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Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #5 on: Sat, 23 January 2021, 05:49:37 »
Well, the Model M keyboard did it that way, and then everyone copied it.
Except that isn't quite right either. Or is it?
The 122-key keyboard inverts the colors of the F-keys.
The Keytronics KB5151, which anticipated the layout of the Model M in many ways, had ten F-keys in a row at the top, split into two groups of five, both the same color.
What we usually call the "Model M" is really the "IBM Enhanced Keyboard", which was first produced in 1985.
The original keyboard for the IBM 5271 or 3270 PC did not have F-keys that were in different colors, they were all in one connected group.
So indeed the Model M from 1985 is where this originated.

Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #6 on: Sat, 23 January 2021, 07:20:59 »
Well, the Model M keyboard did it that way, and then everyone copied it.
Except that isn't quite right either. Or is it?
The 122-key keyboard inverts the colors of the F-keys.
The Keytronics KB5151, which anticipated the layout of the Model M in many ways, had ten F-keys in a row at the top, split into two groups of five, both the same color.
What we usually call the "Model M" is really the "IBM Enhanced Keyboard", which was first produced in 1985.
The original keyboard for the IBM 5271 or 3270 PC did not have F-keys that were in different colors, they were all in one connected group.
So indeed the Model M from 1985 is where this originated.

Good information, but I think the OP and I would still like to know the why this was done. To me this is a very interesting question.

Offline S61

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Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #7 on: Sun, 24 January 2021, 06:11:03 »
This has always been a question that puzzles me.
I want to design some different keycaps, but I can't understand the design intention of some formulaic templates

Offline quadibloc

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Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #8 on: Sun, 24 January 2021, 17:45:05 »
Good information, but I think the OP and I would still like to know the why this was done. To me this is a very interesting question.
Although I can't directly answer it, absent a statement on the part of IBM, pinning down when this was first done does help to answer that question. Since it was first done for a consumer product, and since it was first done by IBM, which means that everyone else copying it can be explained by the fact that IBM did it first, this makes it much likelier that it was simply done because it looked prettier.
The IBM Enhanced keyboard followed the original IBM PC keyboard and the IBM AT keyboard, both of which only had ten function keys instead of twelve. All ten were placed to the left of the main typing area, and they were numbered horizontally as five lines of two keys. They were all the darker color as special keys.
Given that all the existing PC software was for systems with only 10 function keys, making it easy to find function keys on the basis of a set of twelve, by dividing it into three equal parts very clearly indicated, wouldn't have been very helpful in a practical sense.
Incidentally, the reason why they went to twelve function keys is obvious, even if InfoWorld columnist John C. Dvorak had a problem: IBM mainframe terminals had twelve (or twenty-four) function keys. And none of their mainframe function key arrays used alternating colors for groups of four before that.
In my opinion, the keyboard for the IBM PC should look like this:
Hmm. I'll have to change editors or something.
« Last Edit: Sun, 24 January 2021, 17:52:29 by quadibloc »

Offline quadibloc

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Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #9 on: Sun, 24 January 2021, 17:58:54 »
Here we are. This is what I think the PC keyboard should look like:
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This is a full-retro layout.
The numeric keys and decimal point on the numeric keyboard are white, and the arithmetic operator keys associated with them are blue with white legends.
The cursor keys are yellow, with black legends.
Since it is the Pause key that has the "Break" function that interrupts things, it, rather than the Escape key, gets to be red.
Special function keys are black with white legends, following many advanced video terminals.
The regular typing keys are grey with white legends, as was the case on many terminals and even typewriters.
Keys that correspond to keys that would generate an ASCII control character on an ASCII keyboard are green with white legends, honoring Tektronix terminals.
Shift keys are cream colored with black legends, honoring Anderson-Jacobson terminals.
The function keys are brown, even though the Apple II didn't have function keys.

Online Findecanor

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Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #10 on: Sun, 24 January 2021, 22:29:44 »
Good information, but I think the OP and I would still like to know the why this was done. To me this is a very interesting question.
I would speculate that the idea would have come from using Model F 122-key keyboards. Those had 212 all-grey keys in one block without spaces in-between them.

BTW, some Model M for terminals (102 or 122) didn't have two colours for the function keys like the PC keyboards did. And the Model M2 has white function keys for some reason.
Man must shape his tools lest they shape him
-- Arthur Miller

Offline Rx003

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Re: Why are f-row keycaps colored differently?
« Reply #11 on: Fri, 19 February 2021, 02:08:29 »
I was just here too look at some comments and it have enlightened me  :thumb: