Idiocy of the Happy Hacking Keyboard

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The Idiocy of the Happy Hacking Keyboard

Xah Lee, 2011-06-08

There is a computer keyboard, called the Happy Hacking keyboard (HHK). It is a keyboard often loved by “hackers”, and is one of the most idiotic keyboard. Let me count the ways.

happy hacking keyboard lite2

The Happy Hacking keyboard, model lite 2. image source amazon

Missing 12 Function Keys

It lacks 12 function keys. TWELVE of them! One, two, three, …, four, five, six, and more. Continue counting: seven, and eight and nine. Then, we add another digit to hit 10 in a decimal system. Then, eleven as in Seven-Eleven, and twelve, as in: twelve days of xmas. Twelve programable keys down the drain! What to do if you need them? You have to press 2 keys: 【Fn+‹key›】. What happened to the concept of efficiency?

Missing Page Navigation Keys and 20 Extra Function Keys

Bygone are the extremely convenient dedicated page navigation keys: Home, End, Page Up, Page Down.

Of course, PrtScn, ScrLk, Pause keys, and the whole 17 keys on number-keypad are gone too. Sure, you can do without them, but for programers, that's another 17 programable function keys gone. The HHK is supposed to be used by programers, right?

Missing Modifier Keys

Ok, now you lost 33 keys to automate your work. To make up the lost keys, the Control+Meta+Alt must be going strong on the HHK. But on HHK, it has fewer modifier keys than cheap generic PC keyboard! What the fuck⁈

There's Alt and Ctrl, ok, and there's ◇ Meta and Fn. What about my Super and Hyper keys? On a standard $15 PC keyboard, i have 1 or 2 more modifier keys than the $80 Happy Hacking. Let's do comparison here.

$80 Happy Hacking, you have:

1 Control, 2 Alt, 2 ◇ Meta, 2 Fn. (am not sure the Fn count here because usualy it is hard-wired in the keyboard circuitry thus the OS doesn't see it.) That's a total of 7 modifiers. If not counting Fn, then it's 5.

On $15 nameless USB keyboard, you have:

2 Control, 2 Alt, 2 Meta (Win key), 1 Menu key, 1 Caps Lock (the Menu and Caps Lock can both be remapped to any of {Meta, Super, Hyper}, as can the left Win key or right Win key, independently.). That's a total of 8 modifiers.

Microsoft wired Keyboard 200 2

Cheapest Microsoft keyboard the “Microsoft Wired Keyboard 200” ($15). amazon Logitech K120 ($15) is just about the same. amazon

Non-Symmetric Position of Modifier Keys

Non-symmetric position of modifier keys. If you look at the distance from F to the left ◇ Meta versus J to the right ◇ Meta, you see that they are not symmetric. The right side modifer requires you to curl in thumb deeper.

Many cheap PC keyboards have the modifier keys symmetrically positioned. (e.g. “Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 2000” ($21), Microsoft Comfort Curve ($17), “Microsoft Natural Elite” (~$30.) amazon, and lots others from other brands.)

unix, vi, emacs, Advantage?

I presume those who like HHK are unix users and the reason they like it is due to some key's layout. Namely:

  • The Esc key is at right above the Tab key. The Esc key is frequently used in vi text editor. (See: Emergency vi (vi tutorial).)
  • The Control key is right to the left of A key. The Control is frequently used in Emacs text editor, in unix shell. (See: Xah Emacs TutorialUnix Shell Text Processing Tutorial.)
  • The ⌦ Delete key is right above the Enter key. There's no ⌫ Backspace key. To do backward delete, you have to press 【Fn+Delete】. (On unix terminal, you can backward delete by 【Ctrl+h】 and forward delete by 【Ctrl+d】.)

Each of these key positions are actually inferior to optimal. For example, if you are vi user, the optimal position for Esc is where the PC keyboard's Caps Lock is at, or, one of the big Alt right under thumb (as one of the strong design point of Kinesis Contoured Keyboard.).

If you are a emacs user, the optimal position for Control is the 2 big Alt key on Microsoft ergonomic keyboards right under your thumbs, 2 of them, symmetrically placed, pressed by a strong finger thumb. Or, alternatively, as Caps Lock on left side AND the Enter on right side. (a design point advanced by Truely Ergonomic keyboard. See photos at: Fancy Ergonomic Keyboards You Didn't Know Existed)

For the ⌦ Delete key, am not sure what advantage it serves on the HHK. For emacs, vi, bash, or any text editing, backward delete is more frequently needed. It would be better if that key is ⌫ Backspace.

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