[tpm] ISO keyboard on Canadian laptops (was: Alarming Development)

Amanda Yilmaz ayilmaz at pobox.com
Thu Oct 16 12:50:44 PDT 2008

Actually, what ARocker is talking about is not just certain laptop
manufacturers capriciously messing around with keyboard layouts; it's a
general change seen on most Canadian-market laptop keyboards over the
past year or so.

If you go to any computer store in Canada these days, you'll find that
most Canadian-market laptops now sport a new "bilingual" keyboard (at
least those from Acer, Asus, HP/Compaq, Toshiba and LG do).  This
keyboard differs from the US English one not only in its key markings,
which are now dual English/French, but also in the shape and placement
of a few of the physical keys.

Basically, this is the ISO hardware layout used in Europe, including the
UK and Ireland, with an upside-down-L-shaped Enter key, and the key at
the American [\|] location moved to the right of the ['"].  There is
also an additional key to the left of the [Z], sometimes known as the
"102nd key" or the "ISO key".  If you select the Canadian French
keyboard layout in software, this additional key is used for the
guillemets (French quotation marks).  If you select the US English
layout, it just becomes a second [\|] key.

Those of you with long memories may recognize the ISO hardware shape as
resembling that of the original IBM PC keyboard from 1981, which had the
[`~] key to the right of the ['"], an L-shaped Enter key, and the [\|]
key to the left of the [Z].

All of this is a result of the fact that laptops in Canada are
increasingly made with dual English- or French-language Windows
capability, where the language is chosen when you boot the laptop for
the first time.  Before, if you wanted a French-language Windows laptop
with the Canadian French keyboard (which is ISO-shaped to accommodate
the guillemets), you had to order it specially, at least if you weren't
in Quebec.  In addition, the laptop manufacturers were only making
certain models available in French, and not always the coolest ones.

Whether through manufacturers' desire to unify their stock, complaints
from francophones about limited laptop selections, or perhaps government
prodding, the result is that most Canadian-market laptops now come with
keyboards in the ISO hardware shape (with the L-shaped Enter key and the
extra 102nd key) rather than the US one, and have dual English/French
markings on them, so they're compatible with both the US English and
Canadian French layouts.

I have an LG laptop with this newer keyboard, and I don't mind it
(especially since I'm a Europhile anyway).  It does take some getting
used to, however, especially retraining your left pinky to reach across
the "102nd key" to reach the left Shift key.  At least that means we'll
have an easier time dealing with keyboards we encounter when visiting


----- Original message -----
From: arocker at vex.net
To: tpm at to.pm.org, u-u at mail.unixunanimous.org
Date: Mon, 13 Oct 2008 12:58:26 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: [u-u] Alarming Development

As I was browsing the laptop section of a local Large Electronic
(see, I do have a life), I noticed an Asus netbook, so I moved in for a
closer look.

The keyboard made me reel in horror; the Return key was at right angles
its usual position, and the pipe/backslash (|\) key had migrated down
to the left, to the end of the home row. To make matters worse, a quick
check of the normal-sized machines around it revealed that many of them
displayed the same mutation. Has the miscreant who transposed the
key away from the left end of the home row escaped and focused his
malevolence on the other end?

Something Must Be Done To Stop This!

u-u mailing list
u-u at mail.unixunanimous.org

More information about the toronto-pm mailing list