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On an English windows keyboard one finds the " above the 2 and the @ near the enter key on the right. On a standard English mac keyboard, as built into my macbook for instance, the two have their positions switched.

Why does this difference exist? Is it Apple which switched the two or was it Microsoft/IBM/whoever? Is there any rationale behind it or is it just down to the two evolving independently?

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    This highly depends on your keyboard's layout, too. In Germany I have neither @ nor " on the right side regardless if it's a MacBook or a common keyboard. Nov 13, 2019 at 9:25
  • You should get used to the US layout. Type with the @ above the 2 and the " on the right. It's more pervasive, typing tutorials are geared towards this layout, it's more common to be able to buy keyboards with this layout, more custom layouts exist adhering to this etc. Nov 13, 2019 at 10:22
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    @theonlygusti - that again depends on where you live, the same as the answer below. It's actually quite difficult to buy a keyboard in the UK with @ over the 2 unless you specifically get a Mac-compatible one, because it's just not part of the British PC layout.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 13, 2019 at 10:27
  • @Tetsujin most people do shopping online nowadays, in my experience the UK layout is less common on good keyboards. Similarly, most modern laptops (especially top-end ones), even if you buy them in the UK, have the @ above the 2. I expect the UK layout may fade out of existence soon anyway, so why not get used to the more-likely-to-last alternative. Nov 13, 2019 at 10:58
  • Sorry, this is a bit of a circular argument with no citation & a lot of speculation.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 13, 2019 at 11:06

3 Answers 3

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A bit broad, but…

It is highly region-dependent.
There is also no such thing as a "standard" English keyboard. The two main types are US English, which is based on the ANSI standard & the UK English, which is based on the ISO standard.
The most immediately obvious differences are the Enter key & the key left of Z…

US English - ANSI

enter image description here

British English - ISO

enter image description here

pics from Apple KB - How to identify keyboard localizations
These major physical differences also apply to PC keyboards.

Having " above the 2 is a UK English PC layout [one that drives me mad, even though I'm a Brit, I am simply used to @ being above 2 after 30 years of using Macs;)

US English does it the Apple way, even on Windows, so you could argue that it's the British PC layout that is "wrong", but in the end it's what you get used to.

If you change your keyboard layout in System Prefs > Keyboard > Input Sources to British PC, you will get your " & @ back to where you like them - however, it will also move other 'peripheral' keys to where a British PC has them, such as \ | ~ etc

Image showing British PC layout with Shift held.

enter image description here

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    Interestingly, the BBC Micro had double quotes on Shift 2, but its successor, the Archimedes, had @.
    – benwiggy
    Nov 13, 2019 at 10:14
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    The last compy I had before I switched to Mac was the Atari 1040ST, which also seems to have used the British PC layout - upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/Atari_1040STf.jpg I've just been on Macs since before email was a big thing, so I guess I never needed to relearn ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 13, 2019 at 10:19
  • @Tetsujin 1040ST... :) upgraded to 4 meg (soldering ram chips...) and I bought a 10 meg harddrive - cost a fortune back then... still miss it in some ways.
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 13, 2019 at 13:43
  • it doesnt really answer though why mac uses american everywhere Jul 13, 2021 at 11:25
  • @theotherone - "Why" can only ever be answered by Apple themselves. Best we can do on stack exchange is explain "what". & "how to work around it".
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 13, 2021 at 11:33
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Only Apple knows why long ago they decided to ignore the British Standard BS 4822 when creating the Apple "British" keyboard layout. Later on they added the "British PC" layout to address the problem.

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  • Perhaps it was cost as they were smaller back then...
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 13, 2019 at 13:48
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Digging some layers in Wikipedia, from this image at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY#Computer_keyboards to searching "@" and "quote" on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout

On a manual typewriter, the operator could press the key down with a lighter touch for such characters as the period or comma, which did not occupy as much area on the paper. Since an electric typewriter supplied the force to the typebar itself after the typist merely touched the key, the typewriter itself had to be designed to supply different force for different characters. To simplify this, the most common layout for electric typewriters in the United States differed from that for the one most common on manual typewriters. Single-quote and double-quote, instead of being above the keys for the digits 2 and 8 respectively, were placed together on a key of their own. The underscore, another light character, replaced the asterisk above the hyphen.

All differences between US and UK keyboards are listed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_and_American_keyboards

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