Subject: Re: delete and backspace...
To: NetBSD-current Discussion List <current-users@NetBSD.ORG>
From: Dave Sainty <>
List: current-users
Date: 08/14/1999 16:44:10
Hmmm, my favourite holy war....

Greg A. Woods writes:

> > edit keys on a PC keyboard are marked differently from a DEC keyboard
> > (Remove, Find & Select), most emulations map the same escape sequences to
> > them.  And if someone is going to use such an emulation to log in to
> > some system which reuires those keys, they'd better be there (or the poor
> > bloody user will end up having to type the escape sequences in by hand!).
> This is *ONLY* correct if you have a VT2xx/3xx/4xx keyboard plugged in!
> *ALL* PC keyboards I've ever seen, right from the very first original
> IBM-PC klunker, label the bigger key in the top right corner of the main
> group "backspace", and I've never found anyone who always pronounces
> that word as "delete" even though there are an astounding number of
> people who now believe that's what it means.  A "backspace" key on an
> ASCII (or ISO-8859-x) keyboard should produce an ASCII "backspace"
> character (BS == 0x08) and similarly a "delete" key should produce an
> ASCII "delete" character (DEL = 0x7F).

I think that is like saying that the Page Up key should only output
the Page Up character. :)

> The keyboard should *always* behave, by default, as the physical key
> labels say it does, regardless of the screen emulation, IMNSHO.

You could push that line, but outputting ASCII BS on the key that's
positioned where the erase key historically sits is always a PITA.

I prefer to think of the backspace key as the "erase" function key.  I
don't think I'm alone in this, by the number of times I've heard
people complain about having to hit the key marked "delete" whenever
they want to erase a character.

Even on typewriters the only reason it was called backspace was
because it was difficult to mechanically place the tippex paper in
front of the hammers and hit the right key again.

Once "we" decide that it's really an "erase function key with a
historical name" and also realise that it's too big a loss to destroy
the value of the ctrl+H keystroke, and also realise that theres a
reasonable existing "standard" (of the two) that binds DEL to the
"erase function key", then we should realise that there is a lot of
sense in standardising on this so that there is as little confusion
over this as possible.

I do think its unfortunate that PC keyboards labeled the erase key
"backspace", which causes great confusion due to the ASCII character
of the same name (which is NOT an erase character).

> (What I want to know is how the vt220 designers won over the vt100
> designers on this issue!  Surely the latter didn't change their minds
> and actually perpetrate the mistakes attributed to the former!)

Probably used emacs too... :)