Vim hjkl arrow keys T-shirt design
Back in 2018 I found a T-shirt featuring vim’s
hjkl arrow keys but stocks
were sold out. I therefore had a dab at designing my
In early 2018 I stumbled upon a blog post about the history of the vim
hjkl arrow keys.
The post explained why vim uses the
hjkl keys as
arrow keys1, showed the keyboard which inspired their
usage, and presented a T-shirt that the blog’s author had designed.
Unfortunately, only 100 were ever made and since the blog post was from 2012
they were long since sold out.
I remember thinking: “that’s a cool T-shirt; I wouldn’t mind one!”, so I designed my own.
To derive the design I found a high-ish resolution version of the
keyboard so that I could trace lines around the keys and try to rebuild the
letters and arrows on the keys. Then, after spending quite some time
Inkscape, I finally came up with this:
This is one of the first T-shirts I’ve ever designed myself, so be gentle on me! Although this design doesn’t 100% match the one I tried to imitate (I think the original design does a much better job of recreating the letters and arrows on the keys), I thought someone might be interested in having this design on a T-shirt, a coffee mug or even a throw pillow. Enjoy!
For those interested in a deep-dive about the history of vim’s
Hillel Wayne has a really interesting
historical thread about the hjkl
keys on Twitter:
Why does Vim use
hjklfor navigation? The usual answer is “it keeps your hands on the home row”, while the historical answer is “because Bill Joy developed vi on the ADM-3A, which didn’t have arrow keys”. But we can push the history further back: why did THE ADM use
It’s because vi, the predecessor to vim, was developed by Bill Joy on a computer terminal–the ADM-3a–which didn’t have didn’t have dedicated arrow keys and instead located them on the
hjklkeys on the home row. Also handy to keep your hands on the home row when touch-typing. ↩
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