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Re: The Chthulhoid horror that is keyboard handling in Unix

Magnus Eriksson <> wrote:

> To those born after the Stone Age of computing, the above doesn't even
> begin to make sense.  "delete character"?  It's not a character, it's an
> operation, it's *something you do*.

That's a very sweet and wholesome concept, and i'm really amused by the
notion that you think we've passed out of the Stone Age. But you are
ignoring the reality that we are still typing on mechanical keyboards that
predate (by hundreds of years) "intent," and that were designed to imbed
some ink in the indentation created by the impact of a metal typeface on
some bit of dead, flattened tree pulp.

 I'm just as ready as the next humanoid for the socket at the base of the
skull that translates my intent into pure, divine manifestation, but the
fact of the matter is that it just doesn't yet exist.

So we must continue to interpret and translate the character as a
computational event.

> What I mean is this: The up arrow key doesn't send a "move cursor up
> character"[*]

Really?  I think it does. Ahh, well maybe it's several bytes of key codes
(characters), but you see what i mean, perhaps.

>, Caps Lock doesn't send the "START SHOUTING CHARACTER"

That's true.  Caps lock doesn't leave your computer. Sometimes it doesn't
even leave your keyboard.

> And the most absurd thing here is the argument that "the <foo> key is
> supposed to send the <bar> character".  That's just stupid.  The user hits
> the key, and expects the right thing to happen.  Whatever happens in
> between, that's just implementation details.  USB or PS/2 keycodes, VT100
> emulation, console or xterm -- whatever.

Again, we're typing on keyboards, which, i think is the underlying
complaint you are making.  As soon as you have the replacement for this
ready, please let us all know.  I'd love to see it.

Have you heard the story that the standard width of a lane of modern
automobile traffic is ultimately based upon the width of two horses asses,
because this was the standard upon which the Romans built roads?

Perhaps it's apocryphal, and almost certainly, now, an antiquated and
virtually arbitrary standard. But it's still *the* standard, and it cannot
be changed without doing away with or abandoning every automobile in

>  Asking users to set environment variables and mucking around with
> dot files is the wrong way to go about things, unless the goal is to annoy
> people.

Don't fear the command line.  It's where the power is. There are several
other operating systems that enable you to just click on things to do
perhaps, on a good day, as much as 80% of what can be accomplished on a
keyboard in front of a semi-knowledgable monkey, sending commands to a
relatively venerable, but also, therefore, more advanced operating system.

 Shoelaces are simple, and almost every moron can tie its shoes.  Would
you want to drive your automobile or fly an aeroplane with nothing but


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