Daniel Colin James thinks it’s time to get rid of the CAPS LOCK key on physical keyboards.
Why? Partly because it’s a relic of history, created in the 60s by the Bell Labs engineer Doug Kerr, who noticed that people often wanted to type street addresses in all caps — but there was no key in existence that would capitalize letters but not numbers.
Colin James actually called up Kerr, who’s still around, to get the story, which is quite interesting. As Colin James writes on Medium …
The QWERTY keyboard debuted in 1873 on a typewriter that could only produce capital letters. A few years later came the Shift key, which toggled the typewriter’s output between lowercase and uppercase letters.
The Shift key physically shifted the internals of the typewriter, so it took some effort to press it down. Eventually, a Shift Lock key was created to hold it down. With Shift Lock engaged, letter keys produced their uppercase counterparts, but number keys produced symbols. That was a problem.
Doug Kerr was a telephone engineer working at Bell Labs in the 1960s. He watched his boss’s secretary repeatedly get frustrated after accidentally typing things like “$%^&” instead of “4567” in addresses because of Shift Lock.
So he did something about it. Doug Kerr invented the “CAP” key. CAP performed the same function as Shift Lock, except it only affected the letter keys.
“CAP” became Caps Lock, which made its way onto the computer keyboard, where it has remained part of the standard layout ever since.
So it’s a historic relic that, Colin James argues, just eats up space on a physical keyboard. Why not have CAPS LOCK engaged the way it is on smartphone keyboards — i.e. with a double-tap on the SHIFT key — and free up the CAPS LOCK key to toggle on something more useful, like emoji?
Apparently even Kerr agrees it’s time for the physical key to go.
I’m down. Though I gently diverge from Colin James’ argument that “most of us don’t often have a reason to type anything in all caps today,” given that we have bold and italics. I frequently use all caps on Twitter, since it’s the best way to indicate that you are well and truly hollering something at the top of your lungs for emphasis. And isn’t that like TOTALLY TWITTER amirite
Almost as much as is the art of ending a sentence without punctuation
Which, contextually, doesn’t work as well on blog posts does it
(CC-2.0-licensed photo of the CAPS LOCK key courtesy the Flickr feed of i_yudai)
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