Why does Mac UK keyboard have a key for ± and § ?

Image here, right below ESC. UK Windows does not have this, nor US Mac. How often do people need to use these symbols over there? Quadratic solicitors?

I don’t know why Apple chose to put those symbols on that key, but it is worth noting that the symbols on the same key on a PC keyboard, although different, are also fairly useless to everyday folks - mine has ` ¬ and ¦ on it. No idea what those are for.

Good point. Though ¦ (“pipe” or somewhat too formally, “vertical bar,” whether broken or not) is somewhat common in programming and computing use, as in DOS “| more” or some programming languages’ OR operator.

And when was the last time anybody used Scroll Lock or Pause Break?

Scroll lock used to be a useful key for switching between screens on KVM switches. Not used so much now we all use virtual machines.

ETA: Pause Break can be useful when starting up a machine to catch error codes before it boots up.

I used Scroll Lock last night to stop the output on a computer console from scrolling.

It wasn’t so unusual to use the Break key (or more specifically, Ctrl+Break) in MS-DOS to interrupt a running program or batch file. For all I know it’s still useful for the same purpose in the command shell of modern versions of Microsoft Windows. And speaking of Microsoft Windows, holding down the Windows key and pressing Pause has been the shortcut to bring up the system information dialog since, oh, Windows 95 I think. This is a great shortcut to use when you sit down at some unfamiliar Windows machine and need to quickly determine basic information such as the Windows version number, RAM, CPU, etc. Microsoft changes its graphical user interface in every iteration of Windows, but this keyboard shortcut has remained constant.

Until the keyboard designers show up, to gain some perspective we can look at what characters appear, say in the Latin-1 Supplement, and were therefore considered vaguely important (but not too basic) by some committee:

Somewhat arbitrarily excluding letters and accents/punctuation, we have ¢, £, ¤, ¥, |, §, ©, ¬, ®, °, ±, ¶, µ, ¼, ½, ¾, ×, ÷

So it is not too surprising to find some of those on a keyboard.

Anyone who does legal writing uses § (“section”) a lot. I know I’ve used it on this very board a few times.

The grave accent has uses, too (embedding the results of another command in UNIX like shells, quoting otherwise illegal identifiers in MySQL). But things like this are generally the results of software designers needing a distinct character in the syntax they are specifying, and pawing through the limited palette of ASCII 7 bit characters for one that they can use that won’t conflict with the rest of their syntax. The characters weren’t originally included for them.

BTW, the usual specification of a US English PC keyboard has the grave accent paired with a tilde (~) on that key.

I notice that the Apple keyboard shown still has the grave and tilde - they are down there next to the shift key, which has been made smaller. Maybe somebody can tell me what the boxes around those characters indicate.

Agreed. I guess the question is why does it comes standard in the UK, but those of us in the US have to set up a hot key for it.

In the USA, we need the ~ to access the console so that we can cheat in our games.


I use it several times a week. WinKey + Pause/Break opens the System control panel.

Heh, I didn’t even see the in Mangetout's post, just the ¬, which is a character obscure enough that I had to look it up (negation, apparently). ~ is used in some computing things like some programming language (usually negation/NOT), Unix and derivatives home directory, etc. And yes, of course the cheat console, though technically that's the key (don’t have to hold shift), everyone calls it the ~ key.

Looking at the PC keyboard, the pipe and the two lines seem to be separate symbols.

I note the Mac keyboard appears to be missing the #. Apparently they have to press Option-3 to get the symbol for their hashtags. Weird that it’s not indicated on the key.

I wonder if people in the UK are more locked into Mac or PC because of this. I mean, something like how you type email addresses would be affected.

For years, UK keyboards have shown the pound sign in place of #, which was a logical substitution in the days before twitter.

But the # key is on the middle row of characters together (when shifted) with the ~ We also have a Euro sign € which is the 4 key with Alt Gr.

To add artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative? The physical key is their for the European keyboard: the English keyboard just assigns some not-very important characters to the key.

There is actually quite an interesting reason for this, it’s considered impolite to talk about it while Americans are around though.