Re: Unicode Keyboards

From: Markus Kuhn (
Date: Thu Aug 05 1999 - 15:38:41 EDT

Roozbeh Pournader wrote on 1999-08-05 12:23 UTC:
> Does anyone know of a purposal etc. available for Unicode-capable
> keyboards? I don't know much about the East Asian part of the
> Unicode, but in the other parts, when I look, I can see that only about
> 10% of the characters in other parts can be typed on legacy keyboards.
> Is anyone working on these? ISO perhaps? Or an organization of some
> companies like Unicode?

The only related ISO standard is

  ISO 14755

which talks about a few fall-back solutions such as hexadecimal entry
while you keep Ctrl-Shift pressed. Probably not what you were looking

I do not expect that there will ever be THE single Unicode keyboard. We
will continue to have national or regional keyboard layouts, because the
optimal keyboard design differs obviously significantly depending on
what script you use.

I do expect that various existing national keyboard layouts will be
revised and extended soon, as Unicode becomes more widely deployed, in
order to cover a rather small number of additional characters that are
useful in the various cultural environments but that were so far not
supported by typewriters (for which the national keyboard standards were
originally developed). I also expect that keyboard layouts will be
further unified. We have at the moment over 30 different keyboard
layouts for only the languages supported by the ISO 8859-1 standard. And
most of these keyboard layouts are just minor modifications of the
original QWERTY layout that the first typewriters that were invented in
the US featured.

There is no technical, cultural or ergonomical justification for the
many keyboard layouts that we have at the moment. For instance, it is
easily conceivable to come up with a single highly practical layout for
the West European and Panamerican Market.

For example, for my UK keyboard here, the following modifications would
urgently be necessary to get it a bit more aligned with today's word
processing requirements:

  - remove broken bar and logical not (EBCDIC is dead, dear BSI folks!)

  - remove PrtScr/SysRq, Scroll Lock, Pause/Break (never used)

  - add at least degree, copyright, left/right single/double quote,
    euro, (double) dagger, en/em dash, minus, dead keys for
    grave/acute/circumflex/diareses, micro sign, c-cedilla.
    (Many of these can easily go onto Level 3 shift = AltGr)


Markus G. Kuhn, Computer Laboratory, University of Cambridge, UK
Email: mkuhn at,  WWW: <>

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