Japan Thumb-Shift Keyboard (NICOLA layout)

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

The thumb-shift design were later passed on from Fujitsu to NIHONGO NYURYOKU CONSORTIUM (Meaning, Japan Input Consortium) and officially named “NICOLA layout” (from the words NIhongo-nyuryoku COnsortium LAout).

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Japan thumb shift keyboards. Top left is new, year 2013 Esrille New Keyboard. The others are 1980s.

Oasys100 Word Processor, Year 1980

OASYS100 (Office Automation SYStem) is Fujitsu's first Japanese word processor, released in 1980. It's the first to have the Thumb-Shift Keyboard.

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Oasis 100 word processor (photo dated 2021-05-25) 〔image source https://twitter.com/ishidashuji/status/1397129844249432067
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Oasis 100 keyboard (photo dated 2021-05-25) 〔image source https://twitter.com/ishidashuji/status/1397129844249432067
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OASYS100 word processor 〔2015年富士通株主総会 By ?. At http://tak05.cocolog-nifty.com/banzai/2015/06/post-430d.html
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OASYS100 word processor 〔OASYS 100 and Breadboard Model of Thumb-Shift Keyboard By Ipsj Computer Museum. At http://museum.ipsj.or.jp/en/heritage/OASYS100.html
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OASYS100 keyboard 〔OASYS 100 and Breadboard Model of Thumb-Shift Keyboard By Ipsj Computer Museum. At http://museum.ipsj.or.jp/en/heritage/OASYS100.html

OASYS 100DP Word Processor, Year 1992

OASYS 100DP came out in 1992.

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OASYS 100DP 〔image source http://www.ykanda.jp/catalog/100dp/100dp.htm
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OASYS 100DP 〔image source https://twitter.com/eceage/status/579581845991374850
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OASYS 100DP 〔image source https://twitter.com/eceage/status/579581845991374850
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OASYS 100DP 〔image source https://twitter.com/eceage/status/579581845991374850

Fujitsu FKB8579USB Thumb Shift Keyboard, Year 2001

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Fujitsu FKB8579USB thumb shift keyboard, came out in year 2001
This keyboard is recognized by the Operating System as a 106 keyboard, and the thumb left key generates a non-conversion key and the thumb right key generates the same key code as the conversion key. Therefore, in order to perform the thumb shift input, software that emulates the thumb shift arrangement using the conversion / non-conversion key as the thumb shift key is required. The product comes with Japanist, an IME with a built-in thumb shift emulation function. image source

Fujitsu FKB7628-801 Keyboard. Year 2010

Fujitsu FKB7628-801 keyboard. Came out in 2010. A portable thumb shift keyboard. [image source]

Thumb-Shift Layout

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NICOLA keyboard layout [image source 2017-07-15 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NICOLA_J.PNG ]

Fujitsu's first Japanese word processor, named OASYS, with thumb-shift keyboard was launched in 1979 and became a big hit. As the line of products expanded, so did the popularity of thumb-shift keyboard. The share of OASYS in the Japanese word processor market reached 20 percent at one time (not all of OASYS were equipped with thumb-shift keyboard, though). But the adoption was slow to spread to other manufacturers' product lines. Although Fujitsu was open to adoption by other manufacturers, there was little incentive for them to adopt their rival's system in the (then) fiercely competitive environment of word processor market. It was only in 1989 when Nihongo Nyuuryoku Consortium (Japanese input consortium) was established with a participation of several companies, including Fujitsu, Sony, Apple Computer, Japan IBM and Panasonic, as the promotion body of thumb-shift. The rights regarding the use of thumb-shift were officially transferred from Fujitsu to the Consortium. It was also a time in which there was a rapid shift from dedicated word processors to personal computers. Although Fujitsu kept producing PCs with a thumb-shift keyboard, including portables, most users preferred ones with an ordinary keyboard and there were very few PC manufacturers which offered thumb-shift. Thus, the growth of PC market did not translate into that of thumb-shift and the share of thumb-shift declined quickly. As of October 2011, three models of thumb-shift keyboard for PC, as well as two portable PCs are on sale.

NICOLA is a variation of thumb-shift keyboard. In this keyboard layout, Henkan (“変換”, conversion) is merged with right thumb-shift and Muhenkan (“無変換”, non-conversion) merged with left one because USB HID does not allow additional key left thumb-shift and right thumb-shift .

[2019-12-08 Thumb-shift keyboard]

See also: Japanese Keyboard Layouts