Check out the Digital Varityper's fantastic keyboard

Originally published at: Check out the Digital Varityper's fantastic keyboard | Boing Boing

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I win!

Screen Shot 2021-10-11 at 8.26.36 AM

European-style enter key, though.


Wait, you guys don’t have that? I’d always just assumed that the L-shaped enter key is a feature of a full-sized keyboard while the small rectangular one is found on smaller keyboards such as laptops. Now you’re telling me the tiny enter key is standard in the US?

Moved out west to CA in the mid 80’s and talked my way into a job ATnT (before they started backing alt-right fascist ‘news’) The graphics department had dedicated stat machine and film development rooms with a rotating light lock. We had a Varityper machine (as did the other graphics office over in Pleasanton). The Varityper was run by Kevin Lu (apologies if my fone-et-ikal spelling misses the mark) as a dedicated typesetter. That was ALL he did and was damn good at it! We also had a zenographics slide making machine (running CPM iirc). A few months in they added both Macs and PCs to the mix. I learned everything but the Varityper (though I would watch Kevin set type and he played that keyboard like it was in Carnegy Hall). There’s a Mac and a PC on my desk (OK under it for the AI/ML/GAN thing I am working on).

One time he popped the exposed material out of the machine and somehow exposed some of it to the light. He came out of the development room and said he was sorry to have messed up my pattern of dollar signs. It was SO BEAUTIFUL I snatched it out of his hands and framed it. Thx Kev! (sorry about all the reflections)


I wouldn’t describe one of the largest keys on the keyboard as ‘tiny,’ but yes - rectangular enter keys are standard in the US on full-sized keyboards. Even very nice ones

And the freed-up space is the incredibly-more-convenient location for the backslash/pipe key, which is tremendously convenient both for Windows and at the Unix shell.

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Custom keyboards and terminals used to be somewhat common. I remember the custom keyboard on the OCLC M300 (an IBM PC configured for use in libraries) and the dedicated Lexis/Nexis terminal too.

In 1989, I worked in a translation agency in Japan that had the CRT-based optical typesetter. The actual exposure machinery was about the size of a small garden shed, apart from the workstation and the developer (which was the size of a small workbench). It made a chunk-chunk-chunk noise as it stepped through each character. I was rooting around a cabinet in that office once and found some of the optical type wheels that had preceded the CRT.

The rest of us worked on Trash-80s and transferred files to the Varityper via a null modem (good times), where our typesettter inserted all the formatting codes, hyphenation, etc. She was amazingly fast, and despite English not being her first language, had an amazing understanding of hyphenation rules.

It did produce absolutely beautiful output.

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Oooh, nice. I’ve had these keycaps forever, and I still haven’t gotten around to putting them on a keyboard. You’ve inspired me!

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