Standardizing function keys on a keyboard

From: Alain LaBont\i\ (
Date: Mon Jun 07 1999 - 15:03:37 EDT

A 10:14 99-06-07 -0700, Markus Kuhn a écrit :
>Is the order of the operator and function keys on the numeric keypad
>reasonably well standardized throughout the world? (I hope so, because
>typewriter's didn't have it, so national standards committees for
>typewriters had little opportunity to mess up things here as well as

A big problem is that you can count de jure national keyboard standards on
the fingers of the hands. It is very unfortunate.

And even so, even the only French AFNOR standard is a QWERTY keyboard (a
monumental flop !) while the one that most French people use is an AZERTY

The Canadian keyboard standard itself is a good model for the Latin script
(it supports a repertoire of 330 characters). One can enter with it most
characters in the Latin script realm (about 40 languages mainly of Europe
and America). However it does not standardize function keys. In ISO/IEC,
manufacturers were never able to agree on function key placement. We tried,
but it failed. We retry again sometimes, modestly... like now, we try
(Canada, Sweden, Finland, in a joint project) to do some standardization on
Level 3 select and Group Select (amendment 1 to ISO/IEC 9995-2)... It looks
like something will work. But on the full set of widely-present *de facto*
standard functions, no agreement yet. Well, we stopped trying since 1991,
in fact.

Concerning the numeric keypad, there are 3 general layouts: 789 disposition
(most PCs), 123 layout (most telephones and telematic terminals plus
automated teller machines) and now the fallbacks on portables... The
placement of the zero also allows many variations just to avoid controversy.

The decimal delimiter is generally not well implemented. It is generally
implemented on a PC like an alphanumeric key (it *enters* either chaarcter
"." or "," rather than correctly calling the function "decimal delimiter"
-- input should not depend on output presentation for number entry -- this
has been the cause of numerous flaws in the keyboard interface and a
nightmare for users, in particular in countries which have both usages,
like Canada; it is fortunately more and more corrected by the application
software [for example Excel now accept both the "." and the "," as
representing the decimal separator function] -- whence a function symbol to
replace character labeling of "." /"," on numeric keypad functions in the
future -- this symbol will also be included in the next edition of the UCS
and in Unicode 3).

Alain LaBonté
Editor, ISO/IEC 9995 series of stasndards (keyboards)
Editor, ISO/IEC 14755 ([minimum] UCS input methods)

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