Have you ever wondered about the backstory of the (somewhat cryptic) Meta, Super and Hyper keys in Emacs? Well, they come from a legendary Lisp machines keyboard from the 70s, called the space-cadet:

space-cadet keyboard

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it:

The space-cadet keyboard is a keyboard designed by John L. Kulp in 1978 and used on Lisp machines at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which inspired several still-current jargon terms in the field of computer science and influenced the design of Emacs. It was inspired by the Knight keyboard, which was developed for the Knight TV system, used with MIT’s Incompatible Timesharing System.

The space-cadet keyboard was equipped with seven modifier keys: four keys for bucky bits (Control, Meta, Super, and Hyper), and three shift keys, called Shift, Top, and Front (which was labeled on the front of the key; the top was labeled Greek). Meta had been introduced on the earlier Knight keyboard, while Hyper and Super were introduced by this keyboard. Each group was in a row, thus allowing easy chording, or pressing of several modifier keys; for example, Control+Meta+Hyper+Super could be pressed with the fingers of one hand, while the other hand pressed another key.

Many keys had three symbols on them, accessible by means of the shift keys: a letter and a symbol on the top, and a Greek letter on the front. For example, the G key had a “G” and an up-arrow on the top, and the Greek letter gamma on the front.

Pretty cool, right? That’s one of the aspects of Emacs that I totally love - it carries a lot of history with it! If it weren’t for Emacs the space-cadet keyboard would have probably been long forgotten by now.