A colleague has just come into possession of a large number of IBM PC 3270 keyboards (don't ask!). These keyboards have a number of very interesting looking keys, but the one that most intrigued us is the one at the bottom right of the block illustrated here:

Keyboard picture

In the absence of knowing its purpose, we've nicknamed it the "person in a wheelchair being chased down a hill by a boulder" key. We are relatively confident, however, that this isn't its actual name.

Any PC/mainframe history buffs able to help us out?

  • 140
    It's clearly the "any" key. Press it to continue.
    – Trezoid
    May 31, 2011 at 7:27
  • 38
    Quite possibly the best key nickname ever May 31, 2011 at 9:35
  • 15
    "person in wheelchair being chased down a hill by a boulder" -- Maybe call it "Indiana (Jones) Key" then? May 31, 2011 at 10:22
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    The key next to it is called "wheelchair guy finally found a shelter key" and the leftmost one is called "solve zeno paradox key". But I've never heard of the one you're asking. May 31, 2011 at 10:29
  • 15
    Disappointed that this isn't about a key with 'Mystery' written on it
    – Dancrumb
    May 31, 2011 at 17:01

9 Answers 9


I do know the symbol on the bottom right key as being the symbol typically used when proofreading written documents. It is a delete. When you write that over a letter or word in a paper, it indicates that it is unneeded and should be removed. Seeing as how this is an older keyboard, the users of the equipment at the time likely would be very familiar with proofreading symbols and understand what it represents.

My guess (without having used the machine in question) is that it likely is the delete key.

This page goes through a history of some IBM keyboard layouts, and a few pages down you see this image:

IBM 3270 keyboard layout

You can see the key layout in your screenshot above the arrow keys. The key layout is:

Dup/PA1    FM/PA2    PA3

Back Tab   Insert    Delete

The delete mark on the key makes sense, especially combined with the proof-reading mark also used for "insert".

  • 15
    It makes sense. I remember an old guy I knew doing proofreading of a document. To show that a character should be deleted, draw a line starting at the character, going to the upper right, and put a little loop on the end. It looks sort of like that picture!
    – GEdgar
    May 31, 2011 at 13:58
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    Also makes sense wrt the key to its left: the "a with a hat" is like the proofreading symbol for "insert this text here" May 31, 2011 at 14:24
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  • Amazing, I thought it meant: Delete a character (a) or symbol (°). ° is on the first symbol from the top-left on German keyboards, on the key directly below Esc.
    – u17
    May 31, 2011 at 16:31

This is an IBM 6110344 keyboard and the keys on the 6110344 are laid out like this:

enter image description here enter image description here

So the key you're looking for corresponds to scan code "6D". When we look at the related scan codes on the link given above, that key turns out to be Del, namely Delete.

enter image description here

  • 17
    This is what the scan code means now, but at the time that key was not "page down". May 31, 2011 at 7:55
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    @Stephen Jennings: Sorry, I looked at the wrong table. I've fixed my answer. May 31, 2011 at 12:30
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    Palavuzlar: Ah, so you're right. I missed that as well. May 31, 2011 at 22:25

The symbol you nick named as 'person in wheelchair being chased down a hill by a boulder' is for indicating that the alphabet is wrong.

enter image description here

Closely looking at the key we can separate the a and the other symbol .

The other symbol is indicating wrong sign.

enter image description here

something like we use for right enter image description here & wrong enter image description here. This symbol is shown in slightly different angle indicating strike off the alphabet (or delete the alphabet).

enter image description here

  • 3
    @Vinod: Do you have any reference to back up your claim? Because I see with a /... Jun 1, 2011 at 0:27
  • @Vinod The major clue is a couple of symbols that are left for the prospective victims. It's a great show BTW, available online at Netflix. (And no, I don't work for Netflix or BBC)
    – JeffSahol
    Jun 1, 2011 at 0:43
  • @JeffSahol: I will watch this weekend..:)
    – Vinod
    Jun 1, 2011 at 7:50
  • @Tom Wijsman: I think the last image put up in this answer matches well with the key shown in this key layout (observe the first image in Scancodes section).
    – Vinod
    Jun 1, 2011 at 7:54
  • 5
    Thanks for the pictures! Some day you will have to present old pictures of floppy disks to illustrate how the "save" icon came to its shape :)
    – Jakob
    Jun 1, 2011 at 11:27

(a/°) is the DEL key. At its left is the INSERT key (â).


It does look like a proofreading notation. A letter with a bar crossing it out and a circle. Refer to delete in this page: enter image description herehttps://people.sunyit.edu/~russ/Com310/ProofreadSymbols.pdf


That's funny, because, in Unicode, there is a symbol for insert (⎀) but I never found it used. Here, â seems really near the "insert" function (but, ô tempora ô mores, too strange for European users), so the strange symbol seems to mean "delete".

  • 4
    O tempora, O mores didn't have the hat signs, I believe.
    – Clément
    Jun 1, 2011 at 18:02
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    Accents were probably too strange for poor Roman stonecutters.
    – XTL
    Mar 7, 2012 at 12:19

Check out the first item in this list: http://wadsworth.com/english_d/templates/student_resources/1413001890_burnett/UsageHandbook/edit_marks.htm

It's supposed to be the old fashioned delete symbol. You may remember this symbol from elementary school, but I guess most people have probably never seen it. Myself, I haven't hand-written a school paper since at least 5th grade (1997ish), so it's been quite a while.


The sound of typing on this thing is oddly satisfying to me.

About the mystery key(s):

Proofreading marks used on keyboard keys for inserting- and deleting characters



This is the keyboard for an IBM 3290 Plasma display (Perhaps a specific model - I don't remember.). That's the zoom key. The display could be configured as 1 LU or 4 tiled LU's on the screen. The zoom key zoomed into the active tiled LU, filling the large screen. Our operators loved the big single screen!

I configured a number of 3274's to work as 4 LU's. Some of the business guys used the display to view a printed page at 160 columns, 50(?) rows.

IIRC, the top symbol was also the letter "a" - the same as the bottom symbol but smaller. Maybe it was scratched off. It was intended to indicate zooming!

I never saw an application which used the PA3 key either!

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