Fn Versus Ctrl: Let the Games Begin


There have been many comments over the last few weeks, fueled I suppose by the T400s keyboard update,  regarding the positioning of the Fn and Ctrl keys on ThinkPad. Any long time ThinkPad fan will know the Fn key has been in the extreme lower left hand corner with the Ctrl key right next door for a very long time. I personally can't remember it not being there.  The Fn key  first debuted on the monochrome display ThinkPad 300 in October of 1992.  Yes there was a ThinkPad with a monochrome display.  The Fn key circa 1992 was placed exactly as it is today.  Interestingly enough,  Apple uses the same positions for their Fn and Ctrl keys as ThinkPad. Every other notebook personal computer manufacturer that I know of  has the Fn and Ctrl key positions swapped. Some would say backwards. The Fn key was originally placed  by the ThinkPad designers in the lower left hand corner to make the key easier to locate when using the keystroke combinations. There was a rationale. This is especially handy for turning on the ThinkLight in the dark. Aim for the two extreme corners. Desktop keyboards have never had the Fn issue to deal with since there are not such stringent  size contraints for their keyboards that require the use of such a key. This is a often debated topic that quickly divides the room into two highly emotional camps. There are arguements to support both cases. So who is right? Who is wrong? Is there really a right answer or not? People have even gone so far as to write code to swap the keys location in BIOS. Others despise the idea of ThinkPad aligning with the status quo and would rather fight than switch. I thought it would be interesting to poll the Design Matters readers to gauge the strength of voice each camp has. Let the games begin.

David Hill