Of Mice and Keyboards

Good Enough for Me:
long vowels in Naamajut

partial keyboard diagram

The basics about Naamajut are on the main Legacy Fonts and Long Vowels pages. This page is for the details—the parts that are only interesting if your memory goes back to the change from System 6 to System 7. For those whose memory doesn’t go that far back, we’re looking at 8 or 9 years before the introduction of OS X. Back then, there were no cats, just numbers.

The first two keyboard layouts are the same ones you saw on the main page. Except for that odd duplication of the ᖐ series, there’s nothing unusual.


keyboard layout: see text


keyboard layout: see text

Things get interesting when you move on to the long vowels.

Mac users expected the Option key to give them a whole new range of characters. And Naamajut came through. When you’ve got w s x and W S X making ᐃ ᐅ ᐊ and ᐱ ᐳ ᐸ, what could be simpler and more intuitive than to let ∑ ß ≈ and „ Í Ù (option-w s x and shift-option-w s x) make ᐄ ᐆ ᐋ and ᐲ ᐴ ᐹ?

There’s just one problem. If e, u, i and n made ᕿ, ᒥ, ᓂ, and ᓴ, then ᖀ, ᒦ, ᓃ and ᓵ would naturally be made with . . . dead keys. Unlike other types of legacy fonts such as the ones used for polytonic Greek, most UCAS fonts worked with your existing keyboard. On the Mac, that put four crucial keys out of commission, because the letters they make depends on what you type next. In fact there are five dead keys on the standard Mac keyboard. But ` isn’t used for a syllabic in Naamajut, so option-` doesn’t count.

Make that two problems. Just as they’d got the dead keys sorted out, along came System 7, bringing with it a brand-new keyboard layout. Only the shift-option characters were affected—but that was enough. Users must have raised a fuss, because System 7.1 came with two built-in keyboards: the System 7 version, and a newly restored “U.S.–System 6”. Keyboard Classic, let’s call it. Not to be confused with the Mac Classic (an early Mac model) or the Classic OS (everything before OS X). If you needed shift-option-x to make Ù instead of ˛ (free-standing ogonek), simply switch keyboards. In the long run, keyboard-shifting was a good habit to get into. But that didn’t help Naamajut.

Digression: If you are getting confused, you may want to detour to Fonts and Input to read up on the difference between keys and characters. Rearranging a keyboard won’t change existing texts or retroactively convert a ᖏ into a ᕿ—but it can make it awfully hard to type in a font that was designed for a particular keyboard layout. That’s what happened here.

Option: What you might expect

keyboard layout: see text

For the ordinary syllabics, you’d expect a straight correspondence. Just add long-vowel dots to the first chart. And, since the number keys make syllable-final consonants, and the shifted number keys make numbers, option-number is the obvious way get the numbers’ shifted counter­parts: ! and @ and so on. The paren­theses (shift-9 and 0) have been left out, because they’re already covered. All legacy fonts had them at G and H.

Option: What you get

keyboard layout: see text

If anyone knows the Inuktitut for “domino effect”, bring it out. You are about to need it. Those purple keys are only the warmup. ᓃ can’t go on option-i—a dead key—so it moves over to option-8, displacing the asterisk. The asterisk, in turn, jumps two steps sideways to take the ^ caret’s spot. I don’t know why ™ took the place of @. But it isn’t wholly unexpected; option-2 is its Mac key assignment. Similarly, the bullet • is such a widely used Mac character that it had to go somewhere, even if its usual home at option-8 was unavailable.

The long ᖀ and ᒦ will be similarly dislodged. And you have already seen long ᓵ at shift-`, the free-standing tilde ~. That may seem like an odd place. But it would be easy for Mac users to remember, since the option-n dead key is used for tilde ˜.

Shift-Option: What you might expect

keyboard layout: see text

Shift-Option: What you get

keyboard layout: see text

. . . sort of. Thanks to that System 7 keyboard revision, you will not find all these characters if you type Naamajut on a modern keyboard. Conversely, in 1990 not all of them would have been where I put them. In some cases I simply couldn’t figure out which character went on which key. Finding a diagram of the original Mac keyboard layout is much harder than finding UCAS legacy fonts.

Some things are definite. Long ᒦ can’t go on option-u—a dead key—so it moves down to shift-option-u. Luckily shift-u isn’t a syllabic, so the key isn’t needed for anything else.

The real domino effect starts with long ᖀ. It can’t go on its obvious choice, option-e, so it takes over shift-option-e instead. There it dislodges the expected ᕇ, which in turn moves next door to shift-option-r. Finally, the displaced ᖐ (“spectacles” version) or possibly ᙲ moves over to—maybe—shift-option-m. On today’s keyboards that’s Â; in 1990 the character may have been in a less remote place. One of those blank keys, for example. The shift-option-m key should have been used for ᓛ. Instead the character moves to shift-option-n, dislodging the expected long ᓈ.

That ᓈ character is overdue for a break. In all legacy fonts—and most modern keyboards—short ᓇ is on the N (shift-n) key. It couldn’t stay in line with ᓂ and ᓄ (i and k) because that would have dislodged the comma. Some punctuation marks are too important to move. And unshifted n is already being used by ᓴ. In Naamajut, long ᓈ jumps up to shift-option-i, which explains why you don’t find ᓃ there. What happens to the expected ᖥ is anyone’s guess. Find È and you’ll have found ᖥ; that’s the letter it corresponds to.

The grey keys—shift-option t, g, k, z and x—are maybes. On modern keyboards, they map to  (apple) and assorted diacritics. But 20 years ago they may have been Ê (the spectacled ᖒ), Û (ᒑ) and Ù (ᐹ). And shift-option-g may have been Ù, giving us ©—option-g on the ordinary keyboard. As noted on the main Legacy page, ᕘ is a mystery. Its current equivalent, codepoint FFFD, simply didn’t exist in 1990. It may have started out as some Mac-specific character in a range that Unicode doesn’t use.

Finally, two of those grey keys are now dots. Shift-option-t is ˇ (hacek) in ordinary fonts, low-dot in Naamajut; shift-option-x is ˛ (ogonek), or high-dot in Naamajut. But they may both be punctuation rather than long-vowel marks.