The history of Caps Lock

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The Caps Lock key seems to be just another key on the keyboard. You can see capital letters everywhere, as it is a part of proper grammar and spelling. However, Caps Lock has gained a special status as an abused key, and messages typed in ALL CAPS have made its way to emails, texts, Internet comments, and social media. In fact, Caps Lock even has its own designated day (October 22). But does anyone really know where the whole idea of Caps Lock originated, long before it became used as a way to ensure proper grammar and spelling, and later on, a tool of annoyance to everyone who has had to look at a computer screen, ever?

This infographic shows some of the fun facts behind the Caps Lock key. In fact, Caps Lock was invented as early as 1878, to add capital letters to a Remington No. 2 typewriter. Back then, Caps Lock and the Shift key were one, and it was known as Shift, to shift between capital and lower case letters. Eventually, Caps Lock became Shift Lock, and by 1984, when the personal computer made its way into the home, the Caps Lock and Shift keys were separated into the modern day keyboard as we know it.

As mass consumption of the Internet came about, Caps Lock began to get its bad reputation because people started to send messages in all capital letters to get attention (i.e. “URGENT” in the subject line of an email). This became known as the typing equivalent of shouting. Social media only accelerated the constant abuse of the key, especially now that more people than ever had access to the Internet. In fact, one of the main reasons that typing in all caps is discouraged is not only because it’s rude, but that according to the infographic, studies have shown that capital letters are harder to read than lowercase letters, particularly in large blocks to text (known to Internet users as a wall of text), due to the equal heights of the letters. This makes it harder for your brain to distinguish the individual shapes of the letters while reading.

The problem with people typing in ALL CAPS has gotten so bad that several people have made proposals to even remove the key from the keyboard, as shown in the infographic. So if you like keeping Caps Lock on, now is a good time to turn it off: you’re not only being rude, but you’re also giving people vision problems. Think about that the next time you decide to shoot off emails, messages or texts in all caps.