Japanese Mac keyboards and writing software
I thought these pics should be posted somewhere on the web for anyone searching for this information, and there's a couple questions here too.
I picked up a Japanese Powermac 5400 that came with the install disks for Japanese OS8 and Japanese OS9. The OS8 disk has a cute video tutorial with a peppy Japanese OL (office lady) who bounces around desktop icons as she explains everything. I'm posting a photo of the keyboard that came with the 5400 here:
The 5400's keyboard is the short keyboard like the one that came with the later portable macs, but has one significant difference: the spacebar is shortened so that two keys are added on either side of it. I don't know what the kanji says on those two keys, and even my Japanese scholar friend doesn't recognize them, so if anyone can translate, please do. But I believe those keys are for switching between hiragana, katakana, kanji, and romaji. As you who know can see, the kana on this keyboard is hiragana:
I'm also posting a photo of another Mac Japanese keyboard I picked up years ago here:
The kana on this keyboard is katakana and is actually stickers that have been applied to a regular Mac long keyboard (the kind with the cord coming out of the middle of the back that came with the 6400's, etc.).
Katakana and hiragana are identical simple phonetic syllabaries with different applications (the Japanese writing system is one of the most complex--and many say craziest--writing systems in the world). Kana refers to either hiragana or katakana.
This is the first time I've tried a Japanese keyboard and it's fascinating to use. I always wondered how the Japanese writing system (or any other complex writing system) could use the limited keys on a keyboard. What went on with Japanese typewriters? Does anyone know? With Japanese word processing software, it's actually pretty fun. You can select whether you want to type in katakana, hiragana, or romaji (Latin alphabet) and there's a small control panel that lets you switch quickly, and those two extra keys also seem to perform that function. The keyboard also suggests that you can type vertically (traditional Japanese writing style) as well as horizontally (notice the underscore key). What's really cool is, that as you're typing along, the writing changes to what's appropriate. You can start typing in romaji and as the syllables collect into a word it may change on the screen to kana, and as the kana collects, it can change into the appropriate kanji (Chinese characters), or just start with kana and it changes to kanji with the appropriate mix of kana and kanji. Word processing software must have been quite a liberating experience for all those peppy OL's--and the OG's too!