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I want to please everyone: Confessions of a Keyboard

Thomas Meyer
Zürich, on 23.12.2021

The "Swiss layout" is a keyboard layout that aims to enable people in all our four language regions to type by machine. A nice idea in theory - total rubbish in practice.

Hello! I am the Swiss keyboard. At first glance, I seem like a little universal genius. You can write all four national languages on me: German, French, Italian and Romansh.

But at second glance, you realize that I can't really do any of them. There are some special characters for each language, but not all of them you need. Big umlauts like the Ä? No way. Or the sharp S, the ß, which you need when writing a text in standard German? Have fun searching. But you have your own key for the ç, which you need exactly once a year, because you send François an email.

Why am I like this? Why do I want to please everyone? Is it because I'm Swiss? Am I the technical version of the political magic formula? A little bit of everything to keep most people happy most of the time?

Well, at the beginning, when the first typewriters appeared, it was of course nonsensical to offer one model in several variants for such a small market. So they designed a layout that covered it as well as possible. Namely me!

  • The change was written Aenderung at that time.
  • Italinità was then written Italianita, after which one pressed the reset key and put a ` on the last a.
  • François simply got a comma under the c in the same way.

Later, typewriters had typewriter heads. No reason to make three or four different ones. But at least there were so-called dead keys, i.e. keys that do not set their own character, but change the following one. The trema is such a dead key: It turns the Joel into a Joël by pressing it before the e. It can also change the A into an Ä. It can also turn the A into an Ä.

Meanwhile, there are computers. But I, the Swiss assignment, still exist. Everyone has long since got used to me, to my limited suitability for everyday use, to my confused nature: The Shift key switches the German-Swiss keyboard to the French-Swiss mode, i.e. Shift-ö produces an é. For an Ä, you have to press the ¨ key and then Shift-a - or press the Caps Lock key, press ä and then press the Caps Lock key again.

öéüèäàöéüèäàöéüèäà!
öéüèäàöéüèäàöéüèäà!

It's all very tedious, but it stays that way because it's always been that way. That is also very Swiss. And somehow I also stand for national cohesion: Hey, we have our own keyboard! It's not really useful for anyone, but hey! Our own keyboard!

Well, I have a good tip for you, dear German Swiss: break up with me. Because we don't fit together. We're one of those couples that only stayed together because it doesn't suffer enough to break up. And because, it seems, there are no better alternatives. And there's a keyboard that fits you really well: the German one.

Yes, with ere tüütsche Taschtatuur!

Now you might be thinking: For heaven's sake, a German keyboard! That's the way it goes! But don't judge too quickly, think about it: How often do you write words that begin with Ä, Ö or Ü? And how often do you write words that contain é, è or á? You see.

You don't need the French or Italian special characters. They waste space that you urgently need for the big umlauts. That's why you're much better off with a German keyboard than with me. Yes, with ere tüütsche Taschtatuur!

Boah, geil! Eigene Umlauttasten! Für ein Ä brauchst du nur Shift-ä zu drücken! Und ein ß ist auch gleich da!
Boah, geil! Eigene Umlauttasten! Für ein Ä brauchst du nur Shift-ä zu drücken! Und ein ß ist auch gleich da!

I know, separations are drastic. You've been with me all your writing life. But I promise you won't miss me after you lay your hands on my colleague from Germany. On the contrary, you will ask yourself: What kind of idiotic finger acrobatics have I been doing for years just to create a simple big umlaut?

Switzerland is a wonderful country. But it doesn't need its own keyboard. In this case, shopping tourism in neighbouring countries is completely unobjectionable. By the way, Digitec often has MacBooks with German layout in stock.

What is your opinion? Would you also like to have complete umlaut keys? Or do you enjoy the little bit of French esprit on your keyboard, even though you hardly need the Accent keys? Write it in the comments!

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Thomas Meyer
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Author Thomas Meyer was born in Zurich in 1974. He worked as a copywriter before publishing his first novel «The Awakening of Motti Wolkenbruch» in 2012. He's a father of one, which gives him a great excuse to buy Lego. More about Thomas: www.thomasmeyer.ch.


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