Space-cadet keyboard

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.
See cokebottle, double bucky, meta bit, quadruple bucky.
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 bucky bits). The true space-cadet keyboard evolved from the Knight keyboard.
[Jargon File]


Read Also:

  • Space-carrier

    noun, Rocketry. 1. a vehicle designed to put payloads in orbit about the earth or to boost payloads for extraterrestrial exploration.

  • Space character

    noun 1. (computing) a keyed space in text or data

  • Space-charge

    noun, Electricity. 1. a distribution of an excess of electrons or ions over a three-dimensional region, in contrast to the distribution of an electric charge over the surface of a conductor.

  • Space complexity

    complexity The way in which the amount of storage space required by an algorithm varies with the size of the problem it is solving. Space complexity is normally expressed as an order of magnitude, e.g. O(N^2) means that if the size of the problem (N) doubles then four times as much working storage will be […]

Disclaimer: Space-cadet keyboard definition / meaning should not be considered complete, up to date, and is not intended to be used in place of a visit, consultation, or advice of a legal, medical, or any other professional. All content on this website is for informational purposes only.