Remember my article on why vi uses hjkl keys? It got very popular so I thought I'd also do an article about Emacs.

When Stallman and Steele created Emacs, they both worked at MIT's AI lab. The systems they worked on had these funny keyboards with a bunch of extra keys called Hyper, Super, Meta and Control. Meta was closer to the pinky finger so that's why it was adopted by Emacs. Hyper and Super not so much.

The original Emacs keyboard with hyper, super, meta, ctrl keys.

Here is how the full keyboard looked back in the day:

Symbolics space-cadet keyboard used on Lisp Machines.

The IBM PC keyboards don't have Super, Hyper, or Meta keys. Meta key is Alt on IBM PCs, and Control is the same Control. So when you see M- notation in Emacs documents, it actually means Alt key.

Extra geekiness: TECO and DDT song. TECO was a direct ancestor of Emacs, which was originally implemented in TECO macros.

Until next time!


Gustavo Chaves Permalink
July 01, 2016, 01:49

Oh no! The horror!!!

I can't believe the Control key was already down there at the bottom and not at the left of the A key as it should!


andrew anderson Permalink
July 28, 2016, 07:39

Hi! Great article. It's nice to know what old keyboards looked like some time ago. I can't imagine working on such a thing now! Very interesting.Thank you for your input and I'm waiting for your next posts to come:)

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