Why do keyboards have a Windows key?

If you use Windows, you may have wondered about the small key with the Windows logo on your keyboard. As you know, the Start menu opens and executes useful shortcuts, but where did it come from? Why is he there? Let's take a look at its history.

The origin of the Windows key

Strange as it may seem to you, the Windows key first appeared in September 1994 at Microsoft Natural Keyboard. This ergonomic keyboard, which split the standard QWERTY keyboard in half, was in the same spirit as its counterpart. Apple Adjustable Keyboard. Unlike the Apple keyboard, Microsoft has tilted each half, at gentle angles, to reduce wrist pressure.

At that time Microsoft had already created various hardware products, including its widely recognized mice. When it came time to create its first keyboard, someone at Microsoft had the brilliant idea of ​​including a permanent Windows-branded key on it. His idea was implemented as two Windows keys, located between the Control and Alt keys to the left and right of the space bar.

These new keys were intended to become the new keys for enhanced Windows shortcuts, similar to the Command key on the Mac. For example, in Windows 95, when pressed once, the Start menu opens (Windows 95 was released almost a year after the keyboard).

When used in conjunction with other keys, the Windows key could perform Windows-related tasks, such as opening File Explorer (Windows + E).

In addition to the Windows keys, the Natural Keyboard also had a Menu key designed to open the right-click context menu in Windows 95.

Shortly after its release, the Natural keyboard became a commercial success, selling 600.000 units a month at the height of its popularity. (In February 1996, the Byte Magazine reported that "almost 1 million" units had been sold in the first year). This success has created at Microsoft a long-lasting ergonomic keyboard set that continues until today.

The Windows keyboard was not limited to something innovative ergonomic. Microsoft has created a new 104-key model (extension of the Model M layout with 101 keys). Soon other keyboard manufacturers were licensed to build according to this standard. Hardware makers did not want to be left out of the new features of Windows 95. So, suddenly, the Windows key was everywhere.

More recently, as part of it Windows hardware compatibility program, all keyboards with more than 50 keys had to include a Windows key (referred to in some Microsoft documents as the "Hardware Start Button") for certification as compatible with Windows. Certification allows vendors to use the Windows logo as part of their marketing.

Through these initiatives, Microsoft has found a smart way to place its name on every computer keyboard, further strengthening its dominance in the computer market. Even if you use Linux on a regular computer, you may see a small Windows logo on your keyboard.

Return the Windows keys

However, not all fans of the new Windows keys. Especially the players, they soon discovered the Windows key was blocking them when playing several of the thousands of MS-DOS games that used the Control and Alt keys as action buttons, such as Doom.

When playing an MS-DOS game on Windows, pressing the Windows key between Ctrl and Alt often starts the Start menu. This not only distracted the players from their game, but in some cases also broke the game.

Remedies included the physical removal of the Windows key from a keyboard with a screwdriver or running a utility such as WinKey Killer, which deactivated the key through software. Today, you can disable the Windows key with a utility such as Microsoft PowerToys .

What does the Windows key do today?

As mentioned above, a single press of the Windows key opens the Start menu. (It is no coincidence that the Start button is also the Windows logo.)

When used in conjunction with other keys, the Windows key can start dozens of tasks in Windows 10, including:

Windows + I: Opens the settings.
Windows + E: Opens File Explorer.
Windows + D: Displays / hides the desktop.
Windows + F: Opens the search box.
Windows + CODE: Minimizes all open windows.
Windows + Tab: Displays the task view.
Windows + L: Locks the screen.
Windows + A: The Action Center opens.

There are dozens more. Memorizing them will help you get some work done quickly in Windows.

The Windows key was - and remains - a landmark marketing victory for Microsoft. However, 26 years after its introduction, the Windows key remains extremely useful in the Windows ecosystem.

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