Every once in awhile you'll come across a keyboard where the Enter key kind of arcs up to cover the place you usually find the key for backslash and pipe, forming a kind of fat backward letter L. The displaced backslash/pipe key is usually relocated to take up half of what would normally be the backspace key. Keyboards like this really, really, suck. They're mostly found in computer labs, mostly on windows boxes.

I suppose the logic behind these keyboards are that because pipe and backslash are used rather more infrequently in current windows versions than they were in MS-DOS, it would make sense to donate the prime keyboard real estate occupied by the extra-large backslash/pipe key to the more commonly used enter. This logic rests wholly on four tragically flawed assumptions:

  1. That you're using windows or the mac os (although i've never in my life seen a mac keyboard with the funky-L enter);
  2. That you aren't doing any kind of programming in a language that uses backslash for escape sequences or the pipe as some kind of operator (for example, or);
  3. That you have no real interest in having some kind of neutral, non-dangerous key between enter and backspace;
  4. And that you don't really care too much about having a full-size backspace key.
The keyboards on the computers at my school all have the funky-L enters. Every time i telnet from a school computer to one of my *n?x shells, i go several times through the excruciatingly painful experience of trying to use Bash's pipeline command to perform some task-- usually just as simple as catching program output within less-- and having my fingers automatically hit the "enter" key thinking they were going for the pipeline. Keep in mind that the pipeline is always placed at the end of a valid command, so Bash never catches my mistake, and so my fingers just assume they slipped and hit enter by accident. So my fingers try the command several times over until either my eyes notice the pipeline key is elsewhere or my confused brain remembers the problem has happened before. This same experience is shared by pretty much all of the *n?x-friendly people at the school on a constant basis.

I've never seen anyone purposefully hit the upward leg of an oversized Enter key in order to produce an Enter.


These keyboards are the spawn of the devil. In addition to the numerous concerns regarding typing logistics that mcc details above, there is a much more subtle problem that effects the other half of computer lab users, the ones who wouldn't have any idea what to do with the pipe even if it were located more conveniently.

These keys stick like a motherfucker.

Imagine the consternation of the lab techs when a distraught user comes to the desk, aggravated and/or terrified because the printer won't stop spitting out blank paper. Or when we're sitting peacefully at our desks and we hear the hum of the repeated, pained beeping the computer produces when it thinks you maybe don't need quite that many line breaks. Or when they come to us wailing that their document is gone and their cursor is going crazy (which is what it looks like, in Word, when the enter key is depressed for a long time).

Some day, we'll get new keyboards. And on that day we will take all the keyboards with the L-shaped Enter key and run over them with monster trucks.

Although I must admit there's subjectivity here, several of these keyboards, specifically several old Packard Bell models, are absolutely wonderful keyboards. Yes, there is wasted space, and yes, intelligence in design is obtained when there isn't anything left to take away. However, this is a small price to pay for the pipe being moved to a more convient location in some cases (under the enter key, next to the right of shift). In addition many so called superfluous buttons added to keyboards nowadays can easily be remapped with included software or freeware off the net, giving you more keys to play with, and making shortcuts shorter.

Granted, there can sometimes be confusion if a keyboard has no wake up button, but most keyboards shipped today have the sleep button also work as the wake up button, and have an icon to indicate this. People not able to figure this out aren't stupid, but they aren't following the important principle RTFM.

Well, according to my old MS-DOS manual you Americans are the only ones who don't have those L-shaped enter keys.

These countries have L-shaped enter keys:

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