What does the Scroll Lock key do?

You probably know what the keys on your keyboard do since you use them almost every day. You know what the caps lock does, what the num lock does, page up and page down but there is one key that no one is really sure what it does. It lights up when you press it so it does something but what does the scroll lock key do?

The scroll lock is a relic of days gone by. On old Windows PCs it was designed to allow someone to use the arrow keys to scroll through text. Back in the good ol’ days of computers, before graphical interfaces (GUI) were introduced if you wanted to move your cursor on the screen to say read a document you had to use the arrow keys. By toggling the scroll lock it allowed for the reader to leave the cursor where it was and to move to another part of the document thereby saving their spot. When a graphical interface was introduced along with a new device called a mouse the scroll lock became obsolete. Users could now click the scroll bars along the side of the window to scroll up or down the page. Later the scroll wheel was introduced on the mouse making scrolling through a document even easier.

For the most part the scroll lock is obsolete but there are still programs that incorporate it into them, most famously Microsoft Excel. For many laptop users with poorly functioning touchpads the scroll lock can be quite handy for them when the cursor goes haywire. Uber computer nerds have been able to utilize the scroll lock to trigger the Blue Screen of Death to appear by tweaking the registry. Why? When that screen appears the contents of the machine’s code is placed into a log file that is created and they want to see that code. Many gamers have also found it useful since it is an unused key that they can utilize during gameplay. It can also be used to toggle between one keyboard and another, so if you have a need for a keyboard using the Latin alphabet and a keyboard using Mandarin Chinese on the same computer then you will need the scroll lock! Also for those of you who use LINUX the key can be used to freeze a window stopping any new input.

The scroll lock will eventually go the way of the dodo bird. In fact some keyboards today do not even include it and the key may not even work with some of the more modern operating systems. It is doubtful that the Smithsonian will need a keyboard with a scroll lock on it but you never know. For those new keyboards that are lacking a scroll lock key the function may still be able to be toggled using the Fn and S keys or through the Windows On Screen Keyboard.

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