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space-cadet keyboard
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A now-legendary device used on MIT Lisp machines, which
inspired several still-current jargon terms and influenced the
design of Emacs. It was equipped with no fewer than *seven*
shift keys: four keys for bucky bits ("control", "meta",
"hyper", and "super") and three like regular shift keys,
called "shift", "top", and "front". Many keys had three
symbols on them: a letter and a symbol on the top, and a Greek
letter on the front. For example, the "L" key had an "L" and
a two-way arrow on the top, and the Greek letter lambda on the
front. By pressing this key with the right hand while playing
an appropriate "chord" with the left hand on the shift keys,
you could get the following results:
L lowercase l
shift-L uppercase L
front-L lowercase lambda
front-shift-L uppercase lambda
top-L two-way arrow
(front and shift are ignored) And of course each of these
might also be typed with any combination of the control, meta,
hyper, and super keys. On this keyboard, you could type over
8000 different characters! This allowed the user to type very
complicated mathematical text, and also to have thousands of
single-character commands at his disposal. Many hackers were
actually willing to memorise the command meanings of that many
characters if it reduced typing time (this attitude obviously
shaped the interface of Emacs). Other hackers, however,
thought that many bucky bits was overkill, and objected that
such a keyboard can require three or four hands to operate.
Note: early versions of this entry incorrectly identified the
space-cadet keyboard with the "Knight keyboard". Though both
were designed by Tom Knight, the latter term was properly
applied only to a keyboard used for ITS on the PDP-10 and
modelled on the Stanford keyboard (as described under buckybits). The true space-cadet keyboard evolved from the Knight