International days dedicated to any small invention or event are countless and almost every day there’s a different one, and today is no exception. June 28th is indeed the day when the CAPS LOCK key is celebrated, one of the most bizarre and extravagant occurrences in the entire calendar. But what is it about?
Well, even if it doesn’t seem like it, we’re sure you understood well, today is CAPS LOCK DAY, the day dedicated to the key that can make letters uppercase, without the need to always hold it down. This could explain the proliferation of posts or stories in caps lock that you may have come across during the day.
However, in reality, the motivation behind this international day is quite the opposite of what one might think. The purpose of today is indeed to reflect on the excessive use that is sometimes made of the key that locks the capitals. Therefore, the recurrence is aimed at mocking the abuse of uppercase characters on the web.
CAPS LOCK Day: how it was born and why
The CAPS LOCK Day was conceived by computer scientist Derek Arnold, tired of reading an excessive amount of emails and messages written in capital letters. And so, just to make fun and downplay, Arnold initially chose October 22nd as the day when everyone would have to type only with the caps lock activated.
An invention entirely American, but today CAPS LOCK Day has spread all over the world, thanks mainly to devs and computer nerds, and is now known and celebrated – or mocked – also in Italy, at least in the bubble of tech workers.
Over the years, the CAPS LOCK day has doubled and is not celebrated only once, but twice a year: both on October 22nd and on June 28th, the day of the disappearance of Billy Mays, a very popular telemarketer, who also entered pop culture thanks to films and TV series, who used to shout as a communicative method to induce viewers to purchase.
This is because, on the web, those who write in uppercase are considered those who shout and rant. And in fact, in the etiquette of the Internet writing an entire sentence or a word in large characters is equivalent to shouting, which is consequently perceived as an aggressive attitude. Even if often those who do it are not entirely aware of the meaning of those uppercase symbols. So, to mock the “uppercase”, often considered boomers or anyway people outside of online communication, this recurrence is celebrated, which even has a dedicated hashtag, obviously all in uppercase: #CAPSLOCKDAY.
The history of CAPS LOCK
But how did we get to have a key that allows us to transform all lowercase letters into uppercase? Well, the caps lock key first appeared in 1878 on the Remington 2, a typewriter already projected towards the future. In fact, this particular model, in addition to the QWERTY design of its keyboard, also boasted an absolute new entry, a button that would forever revolutionize typographic writing.
Before the Remington 2, on typewriters from 1870 onwards, they had started to place two symbols or letters, often a lowercase letter and its uppercase equivalent, on each character bar, to save space and time in typing.
To switch from an uppercase letter to a lowercase one, the shift key was therefore inserted, which was not intended for prolonged use but was used to make only one letter at a time uppercase.
But at Remington, the first real multinational in the sector, they solved the age-old problem of having to type the shift key for each letter in the Junior model, on whose keypad a new key appeared for the first time ever, the shift lock, which guaranteed a considerable time saving by blocking the uppercase mechanism.
In the computer era, however, a key that physically made it possible to alternate the character bar between what was written above and what was written below, such as lower and upper case of a single letter, was no longer needed. So the keyboard blocks were free to diversify; some terminal and computer keyboards have kept the Caps Lock key, while others have started to include a new one, called “Caps Lock”.
The main difference between this new invention and the previous one concerns the fact that now on modern keyboards, the caps lock is able to lock only the letters, making them uppercase, but not the entire keyboard, thus allowing the use of numbers, instead of changing their characters with special characters.