What Are These Keys on my Computer Keyboard?
February 6, 2004 12:32 PM   Subscribe

My daughter asked me (and 'cos I don't know the answer, I'm asking you...): those 3 weird characters on the top left of my keyboard - above the ctrl, shift, caps lock and 'tab' keys - only 2 of them can I display [ ` ¬ ]. I would guess that all three are programmers keys, but how do I access the 3rd one, that looks like a horizontal bar? And do they have a name ('¬' = the inebriated el?). Cheers!
posted by dash_slot- to Computers & Internet (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

the above symbol is right top of my tab.. i think it's called a tilde.
posted by lotsofno at 12:35 PM on February 6, 2004

Sorry, lotsofno, nonono. I mean on the left side. Maybe mine's a non-standard kb? UK specific? BTW, my tilde is above the shift key, accesible as 'shift-#'
posted by dash_slot- at 12:48 PM on February 6, 2004

IIRC the ¬ is something to do with publishing. I imagine dash's tilde is on his #, just next to his return key, the UK standard has a few differences form the US standard.
posted by biffa at 12:52 PM on February 6, 2004

Here's a UK Keyboard Layout, for the sake of reference.
posted by Danelope at 12:56 PM on February 6, 2004

Guess I was wrong, this site says ¬ is a logical negation term, while the 'mystery' symbol is for technical text.
posted by biffa at 12:57 PM on February 6, 2004

Woah. People can actually type on that? It looks closer to the layout of a Commodore 64 keyboard than a PC101. (Also note that it's hugely different from the Sun US keyboard, too, which is also a bit wacky compared to a PC101).

In any case, yes, if your keyboard looks anything like Danelope's link, it's very very UK specific. Alarmingly, horrifyingly so.
posted by majick at 1:01 PM on February 6, 2004

Meanwhile, ` is frequently called "grave" (used as an accent mark in French, among other languages) or a "backtick" in programming terms.

The other I've always heard referenced as a "broken bar" or "broken pipe" ("pipe" being |), but I don't know its official purpose or how to access it on a UK keyboard.
posted by Danelope at 1:01 PM on February 6, 2004

majick, my keyboard is a bit different from the layout in the link but I think its a 105 and that this is fairly standard in the UK now.
posted by biffa at 1:10 PM on February 6, 2004

biffa, old bean, I think the symbol in that link which is designated 'technical' is 'shift-\' (a split vertical bar), on the UK kb, or number 179 in the list. I cannot find it on the US layout.

The *coughdeliberatecough* mistake in my original query is where I wrote horizontal. That should, of course, be spelt v-e-r-t-i-c-a-l.

On preview: Danelope, how did you type the 'bar'?
posted by dash_slot- at 1:11 PM on February 6, 2004

uh-ok, I see how I answered that last question myself, Duh.
posted by dash_slot- at 1:14 PM on February 6, 2004

I always thought "broken pipe" was the same as "pipe". On some terminal emulators, the pipe appears broken. On others, it doesn't.

It is used in UNIX, for example, to put multiple commands on a single line, where the second command relies on information gathered from the first.

ps -ef | grep apache

"ps -ef" will look for any process that are currently running. "grep apache" will look through those results and just spit out ones that have "apache" in them.
posted by jpoulos at 1:16 PM on February 6, 2004

I always thought the | symbol meant the same thing whether broken or unbroken, ie, "take the output of the command on the left of the symbol and pass it to the right".

In testing this, I went to a Windows XP command prompt and typed

dir | more

In the command window, the symbol is broken, yet here, it's not. Yet it's the same key, and it only performs one function, afaik.
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:20 PM on February 6, 2004

*grumble* the one time I get distracted and don't preview...
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:20 PM on February 6, 2004

| is also used as the logical OR in some programming languages, often doubled as ||.
posted by callmejay at 1:22 PM on February 6, 2004

Yup, they are almost certainly the same. I just did a test. In a terminal window I typed the character a couple of times.

The I just changed the font in the same window. The bars became broken.

(I have too much time on my hands, apparently.)
posted by jpoulos at 1:26 PM on February 6, 2004



Shift-\ = ||||||| - the elusive 'pipe'' (even tho', on my kb, it should display ¦)

To display ¦, I press ctrl-alt-backtick. CTRL-ALT-backtick, i tell you!!

Like you really need to know. I suspect my kb is a one-off , tho compaq must have made more than one, right? Right?
posted by dash_slot- at 1:27 PM on February 6, 2004

According to the Unicode tables, the "official" names for these characters are:
U00A6 : ¦ : BROKEN BAR
The 0x7C version is the 7-bit ASCII "pipe" which is displayed as a broken bar on some keyboards, fonts, old terminals, etc.

U0060 : ` : GRAVE ACCENT
U007E : ~ : TILDE
U00AC : ¬ : NOT SIGN
There are lots of other variants of the above; just try searching the unicode charts for grave or bar. [warning, self-link to quick&dirty unicode grep script: python source]
posted by dsandl at 2:02 PM on February 6, 2004

I'm jealous. CTRL-ALT-backtick doesn't work for me. Plus, I really want one of those ¬ characters. You Brits are lucky.
posted by jpoulos at 2:08 PM on February 6, 2004

A little research shows that in HTML "¬" will give you the ¬
posted by jpoulos at 2:11 PM on February 6, 2004

(Also, "¦" is ¦)
posted by jpoulos at 2:12 PM on February 6, 2004

Dash_slot and the Ca¬ of ¦/\¦ 00R¦\/¦$
posted by Frasermoo at 4:49 PM on February 6, 2004

IBM mainframe languages like PL/I use the ¬ as negation. For examplt, not-equal is ¬=. It's a standard key on the old terminals (and mapped to my left bracket). While other standard keys like ^ don't exist at all.
posted by smackfu at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2004

On a modern UK keyboard

Alt Gr + ` = ¦
Alt Gr + 4 = €
posted by Orange Goblin at 5:40 PM on February 6, 2004

Also, that layout that Danelope linked to is most certainly NOT UK standard. What the Hell that group of nine buttons on the left side is doing there I have *NO* idea.

I got your UK keyboard layout right here.
First one is neutral, second is with shift held down, third is with Ctrl+Alt.

Self link. So there.
posted by armoured-ant at 5:45 PM on February 6, 2004

> Also, that layout that Danelope linked to is most certainly NOT UK standard.

It's a Sun keyboard. It's what's on all of my sparcstations.
posted by jfuller at 6:27 PM on February 6, 2004

Oh. Um.

Well, erm, sorry.

posted by armoured-ant at 4:10 AM on February 7, 2004

It's pretty interesting that there are keyboards which have both a normal "pipe" (which is unbroken in my font of the moment, but I've got another in which it's shown broken) as well as a separate keystroke to specify a broken pipe. They can't be used interchangably since they don't map to the same symbol, so for those of you who have both, what's the other one used for?

"I got your UK keyboard layout right here."

The things that are weird about that keyboard are exactly the sort of things that are weird about the Sun keyboard above. Misplacement of " and @ and ~ as well as the complete lack of \ (and its replacement with #) in particular. The poor DOS and Windows users must be driven to fits.

These layouts don't drive people insane? I'd be out on the streets, covered in blood, beating people with my Model M, if I were faced with a layout that funky. Shift-' for an @? Shift-2 for "? It's BACKWARDS! Good grief, what's the world come to?

Seriously, what's the point of transposing the positions of two characters (such as @ and " above) from standard PC84/PC101/PC104 layouts? It's not like an extra space was gained for a locale-specific character.

"What the Hell that group of nine buttons on the left side is..."

It's a Sun thing. The only one of them that matters is Stop. The rest are pretty much unused.
posted by majick at 11:55 AM on February 7, 2004

My UK keyboard has \ on the left of z, and if I press shift + \ I get |.
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:48 PM on February 7, 2004

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