on Feb 27, 2006
Steven Den Beste (who, really, really needs to get some permalinks, seriously man) makes the following gentle suggestion:
While it is true that the CAPS LOCK is certainly an optional key, I do find uses for it. For example, when writing code, it is an almost universal convention to give constants names in all uppercase, as in:
So, if you have to type a lot of these at once (which is rare, usually lines of code like this are added as needed) then it might make sense in some cases to use the caps lock. Let’s face it, typing ROCKET_MAX_RANGE while holding down a shift key is akward. (try it!) So, there are certain rare exceptions where I do put this key to use. I suggest that this happens no more than once a year. If my keyboard did not have this key, it would have no impact on my productivity, except perhaps a small improvement gained from avoiding iNVERSED cAPS tYPING that SDB demonstrates above, and which, I assure you, happens a lot more often than once a year.
But no, by far the most useless key on the keyboard is of course:
I have never pushed it on purpose. I have pushed it by accident many, many times, and such mishaps usually end in confusion or disaster. It opens the start menu, and if you don’t stop typing you will end up launching a random application. So here we have the most annoying and useless key on the keyboard, tucked between two of the most commonly used and indispensible. Press this one when you’re playing a game, and the OS thoughtfully yanks you out of it (often leading to a crash) to present this menu to you. The left ALT and CTRL are two important buttons for most gamers. They get used for stuff like jumping and ducking. So, gamers get the thrill of hammering away on these two buttons, knowing that a misplaced finger in a moment of panic will bring the whole show crashing down.
What amazes me is this: Ever try to buy a keyboard without a windows key? They are rare and expensive. There are high end “gaming” keyboards (a friend showed me one last night) that allow you to disable the key, but nobody has the nerve to just leave the stupid, useless, annoying little bugger off the keyboard entirely. The fact that the key needs to be disabled should be a dead giveaway that it shouldn’t be there in the first place. I keep waiting for Winkey-free keyboards to catch on, but year after year we see the same stupid keyboard.
I’m telling you: For a clever person out there someplace, there is a fortune to be made on this problem. Make a (cheap!!) keyboard without the Windows key, without that also-useless “clipboard” key, without the CAPs lOCK, and of course without the shopping keys and “internet” buttons that appear on some big-name branded keyboards. Make a trimmed-down version of the standard keyboard, and geeks will buy them faster than you can make them.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.