Command Classic

From IoWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The first Command Classic keyboard.

Command Classic is a family of computer keyboard designs, varying mostly by national layout and the presence or absence of a numeric keypad. They are intended for Mac-like GUIs and Unix-like command line environments, and they draw most of their features from earlier keyboards by the likes of Apple and Sun.


"Command" refers to the primary modifier key in the Macintosh environment and its spiritual relatives (NeXT, Be). Its prominent size and placement next to the space bar, like on Apple and NeXT keyboards, are one of these keyboards' most important features.

"Classic" is a reference to the original Mac OS, early Macintosh principles in general, and the way Apple affixed the word in some of its own product names (cf. Macintosh Classic).

Prior Art


Most of the direct inspiration for Command Classic comes from Apple keyboards of the 1980s.

Cursor Keys

The first Apple computer with a set of horizontal and vertical cursor navigation keys was the business-oriented Apple III (1980), and all subsequent Apple computer keyboards featured them except for the infamously mouse-centric Lisa and early Macintosh (before the Plus).

Apple used two variations of cursor key placement through the 1980s. The first, used by the Apple III and the Macintosh Plus M0110A keyboard, had up and down arrows stacked vertically in the bottom right corner of the main bank, with horizontal left and right arrows next to them on the bottom row (some third-party ADB keyboards use this layout as well).

The second variation appeared for the first time on the Apple IIe, remaining on all subsequent Apple II models and making its way to the Macintosh with the introduction of Apple Desktop Bus. It places the all cursor keys on the bottom row, in left/right/down/up order. It appears on the Apple Desktop Bus Keyboard (1986), M0116 "Apple Keyboard" (1987), and the Apple Keyboard II (1990). Command Classic uses this cursor key placement. It is more familiar and aesthetically satisfying to me, and it carries an added advantage of compatibility with standard-size Shift keys.


The type and position of modifier keys is the major difference between Apple keyboards and others. Command Classic modifier layouts generally follow Apple conventions.


Apple keys were another Apple III innovation brought to the Apple II beginning with the IIe. In Apple III and Apple II environments, "Open Apple" and "Closed Apple" were small keys used for only a handful of functions, but they established a precedent of platform-specific modifier keys beyond those included in mainstream teletype and terminal layouts. The Lisa enlarged the Apple key and made it the centerpiece of its graphical menu system's keybindings, which carried over to the Macintosh as the Command key.

Given its significance, the Command key should be one of the easiest keys on the keyboard to hit. On Lisa and Macintosh keyboards, it is usually 1.5U or 1.75U wide. Command Classic keyboards use a 1.5U Command key placed immediately to the left of the space bar, and sometimes feature a right Command key, depending on the variation.


The Option key is another Apple innovation, often equated with the IBM PC Alt key. Unlike the Alt key, though, Option is primarily for chording with Command to access additional GUI keybindings, or combining with mouse actions to modify the result. Apple is less consistent about Option key sizes, but I prefer them to be larger. Command Classic usually uses a 1.5U Option key.


Numeric Keypad

Numeric keypads were exclusive to Apple's unsuccessful business platforms (Apple III, Lisa) until they appeared as options on the Macintosh. All of Apple's ADB keyboards have one, as do the last Apple IIes.

Full-size Command Classic keyboards use a bank layout identical to these, with a only main bank and a numeric keypad to the right, separated by a small gap. Unlike IBM, Sun, and most other keyboards, clusters of navigation keys and dedicated function keys are not used.

Layout Variations

JIS Layout (with both IME keys)
ANSI Layout

The design concept is layout-agnostic, but was originally envisioned as a JIS keyboard.


  • View on Keyboard Layout Editor
  • 3.5U spacebar
    • Not known to be available anywhere currently
    • Existing builds make compromises with IME keys to use available spacebars
      • Model 1 omits the 英数 key to accomodate a 4.5U spacebar
  • Two 1U keys for input method mode control
  • Nearly identical the Macway TP-110JIS


  • 5.5U spacebar
    • Uncommon but available
  • Sun "UNIX Keyboard" layout


All Command Classic keyboards in existence to date are handmade one-off prototypes. Designing or commissioning standardized parts for on-demand reproduction is a future goal, but in the meantime, I have been throwing some together so that I may have something to use until such time, and in order to test combinations of parts and materials.

# Date Form Factor Keymap Opt Size IME Key Connection Plate Switch Key Material Key Profile Case
1 2020.07-08 Full-Size JIS 1.5U 1U Kana USB C Stainless BOX White PBT Cherry Acrylic Sandwich
2 2022.01 Compact JIS 1.25U 1.25U Eisuu/Kana USB A (cable) Aluminum BOX Jade PBT Cherry Poker
3 2022.07 Compact ANSI 1.5U - Bluetooth Stainless BOX Silent Brown PBT XDA Poker


  • (JIS only) No 英数 key left of spacebar
    • 3.5U spacebars unavailable. Would need to be custom made
    • Use slightly more common 4.5U spacebar
  • IBM style number pad operator keys
    • Mac-style operators would require custom keycaps
    • IBM style operator keys are not particularly objectionable

National Variants

Design Goals

    • Large Command and Option keys for people who use them often
  • Not minimalist
    • Dedicated arrow keys
    • Incidentally smaller than 101/104 keyboards, but compactness itself is not a goal
  • No IBM-style navigation cluster
    • Arrow keys can go on the bottom row as on many Apple keyboards
    • Home/End/PageUp/PageDown on Fn layer of arrow keys
  • Has a numeric keypad
    • No Num Lock (no modes!). Always numbers

Problems with existing PCBs

Reasons why the Tsundoku Keyboard must be designed from scratch.

  • No JIS Right Shift support
  • Layouts all referenced from AT101/Windows 104
    • 75%, 60%, etc... all expressed as reductions of AT101
    • No consideration for different combinations of elements. Tenkeyless? 75% 60%? What about a tenkey but no IBM nav cluster?