Every sysadmin needs a little SysRq magic

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Glance down at your keyboard. Look to the top right, somewhere above or around the “Page Up” and “Home” keys. If you’ve got a keyboard that follows long standing convention (at least if you’re using a PC), you’ll see a key that has the cryptic word “SysRq” on it somewhere, possibly as an alternate function. It likely shares a key with the words “Print Screen.” If you have a modern Lenovo laptop, you can stop searching for that key, however. In a bold departure from tradition, Thinkpads have recently been bereft of that oft neglected key.

What is this strange key and what does it mean anyway? “SysRQ” is short for the general term “system request”, however that doesn’t shed much light on its purpose. For that kind of information, we’ll need to step into our wayback machine and take a gander at computing history.

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