What's the "Scroll Lock" key on my computer for?

Una…On What’s the “Scroll Lock” key on my computer for?, a couple of comments:

All the 3270s I’ve ever used were dumb, block-mode (meaning the terminal sent nothing to the host until you pressed the send key) mainframe terminals, nothing more . For those of you who’ve never had the pleasure (I’m assuming most of you), these were huge, hulking, periscope-shaped machines with green screens and detached keyboards that seemed to weigh about 100 lbs. I’ve never heard of anyone who thought of it as part PC (although there was a PC3270 released after the original PC, which was a PC with mainframe connectivity features; perhaps this was what you were thinking of?).

I don’t recall the first version of DOS I ever used (it was definitely prior to 3.3, though), but ISTR that all of them supported subdirectories. Since, in DOS, the backslash is the subdirectory delimeter, it makes sense that this key was included. Also, every other personal computer at the time had it, and it was a standard ASCII character. In general, it seems that if it was a displayable 7 bit ASCII character, IBM put a key for it on the keyboard, which was pretty much SOP for all computer manufacturers of the day.

The “Scroll Lock” article is almost complete bullshit. Kill it. It’s an embarrassment.

Quick answer: the scroll lock was intended to change to a mode in which the arrow keys scrolled the screen while leaving the cursor where it was. It was a new key on PC’s. It was never on the 3270. However, very few programs use it for that or any other purpose (mostly Microsoft, a rare instance of MS getting something right).

The SysRq key does descend from the second (SNA) generation of 3270’s. On those devices, SysRq allows you to shift to a mode where you can enter a request directly to your mainframe’s operating system to log you off, in case the program you’re logged on to is broken and won’t let you go. The SysRq key was added to the PC AT with the plan that it would be used in a similar way on future PC operating systems, but, for reasons unknown to me, Ctrl-Esc ended up being used instead. The main use of the SysRq key nowadays is to emulate the 3270 SysRq key when using a PC to talk to a mainframe as a 3270.

The various “strange” graphics are there because they’re in the US-ASCII character set. For the reasons that they are there, you have to go back to the creation of ASCII in the mid-60’s. By the time the PC was being designed, they had been a done deal for 15 years.

In this case, I was relying on discussions with co-workers who had used them, and by looking at a few examples we have at work. I do not remember if these were a variant model, such as this PC3270 you mention - since I don’t know exactly, I won’t say.

Umm…I know this sounds like a cop-out, but in reviewing my files that text did not appear in my Staff Report I wrote unless I made some sort of grievous error in mailing it to Ed. I will find out why it is in there in that form. :confused:

It’s also an important and well-used Perl and Unix shell scripting operator, at least in my Perl/shell scripts. I know it as the ‘backtick operator.’

Why not wait and listen to my explanation first?

My original Staff Report said did not say that they were “seemingly nonfunctional”, that was added in editing.

I’ve searched the article and not found the text “strange” (or “graphics” for that matter). What are you quoting from?

You didn’t seem to see this message:

What can I say - I didn’t know about the editing changes nor the availability of the article online until about 7:45 this morning. There are some things that need to be put back in, and some things that need better explaining. The last article I wrote had similar changes, which are a natural result of the writer/editor collaboration, but the difference is we were able to work on these to make sure the best article and best information was presented. I tend to write long-winded; and because of that Ed needed to condense some things I wrote to try to make them more readable and presentable - which sometimes does end up making small changes that end up changing the meaning of the article.

Now you can either accept that explaination and understand that your points will be addressed, or you can keep throwing out insults towards it. Your call; I’ll be here either way.

The only embarrassment is that someone here apparently is absolutely clueless in terms of what belongs in what forum. Even the most classless realize that CSR is not the place for such nondecorous flagellation. You really ought to be ashamed of your statement.

I, too, would like to see examples of these “strange graphics.”

I apparently introduced a few errors into Una’s article in the course of editing it. We expect to get things straightened out soon. In the meantime, it would be unwise to make the article the basis for any big bar bets.

Ed, many of the errors are just plain ERRORS that couldnt be the result of editing.

Below are some of them, some noted by others before me:
>The Scroll Lock key on IBM PC-compatible computer keyboards first appeared on the keyboard of the IBM 3270, which is sometimes thought of as a combination mainframe terminal and personal computer.

Just plain WRONG. The 3270 was dumber than dumb. It had exactly ZERO computing power. All it could do, and poorly at that, was to display a page of 25 lines of 80 characters that was blasted to it from the mainframe. A whole page at a time.
No scrolling of the text either. There was a SCROLL LOCK key, but all it did was send a command to the mainframe, which it could obey or ignore, as it wished.

The writer may have been confused by a few hybrid products, the PC3270, which was basically an IBM PC with special 3270-like emulation software built-in, or the PC/370 which was a PC with a miniaturized mainframe and 3270 emulator in one box. These were not 3270’s any more than Ru Paul is Diana Ross.
>some 3270 keys such as Transmit, Dup, and Field Mark were left behind.

Those keys had to do with the 3270’s “block mode” of operation, which thankfully the PC didnt inherit any of.
>The original intent of the Scroll Lock key was to stop text from scrolling as it was transmitted from a mainframe or minicomputer–

While there could have been some communications program that implemented the “pause output” function on the SCROLL LOCK key, most programs used the standard ASCII Control-S, Control-Q key combo for this. I used the PC for many years as a dumb terminal, and I don’t recall any of the comm programs mentioning this feature existing on the SCROLL LOCK key.
>that way you could read it while continuing to download the rest of the text.

Hmmm, that would be a nice feature, I just don’t recall it working that way.

>On a Macintosh, the Scroll Lock key sometimes served as a “power/reset” button.

I stopped using Macs around 1991, but I doubt if Apple would ever do something so un-user-friendly. On the older Macs, before the Apple Desktop Bus, the power switch was on the back, by the power cable. On ADB keyboards, the power switch is a big oddly-shaped bar across the top of the keyboard, with a right-pointing triangle on it. I’ve never heard of “Scroll Lock” ever being a power or reset key.
>In layman’s terms that means, “You can make a program monitor a specific location in your computer’s hardware so it can do something cool (or lame, depending on your point of view) when the SysReq key is pressed.”

That’s an incorrect interpretation. Here’s the real scoop:

Since the early 1970’s IBM had this “Virtual Machine” concept going. The idea is a really cool one (at least for us Computer Scientists). It goes something like this: You’d have one Uber-machine monitor-- often called the VMM, virtual machine monitor. It’s a very clever program, one that can simulate several virtual computers running on one CPU. The virtual machines have absolutely no knowledge or ability to influence each other. This comes in very handy when you want to, say, run three completely different operating systems simultaneously on the same computer. Each operating system thinks it has the whole computer to itself. You can even have one or more systems “crash” while the other virtual machines keep on merrily running.

This presented a problem to the terminal. If each OS thought it had complete control of the keyoard, how do you switch between typing to different virtual machines? It couldnt be with a regular key, as the ground rules stated that each OS had to run with NO changes. So IBM had to add a totally NEW key, one that could be intercepted by the VMM, and wouldnt conflict with the virtual machines view of the keyboard.

The VMM idea never caught on in the PC world, so the key is kind of an orphan.
>Some DOS communication programs used the Break key as a shortcut to quickly terminate a modem connection.
The Break key goes a bit farther back, to the days of telegraphy. In those simple days, a telegraph loop consisted of a key, a clicker, a battery, then a wire to the opposite guy, who also had a key, a clicker, and a battery. To receive a message, you’d flip a switch on your key to short it out, then the other guy would tap out a message on his key. If you lost track of the message you were receiving, you’d flip open your switch, which would break the series circuit, so the guy on the sending end would notice his clicker wasnt clicking in step with his sending. If he was smart, he’d remember that this either menat the indians had broken the wire, or you wanted to say something (a primitive way of saying “OVER”). Then you’d tap out your response, something like "I lost you after “Greetings,” ".

This “BREAK the line current” protocol continued on into teletype protocol, then into PC communications protocol. When you press the BREAK key, the PC doesnt send a character, it actually sends a burst of the “space” tone, a long stream of 0000 bits, which isnt a valid character as it doesnt have the required prefix start bit or the suffixed stop bit.

On an old mechanical teletype, this WAS a signal to the telephone line switching equipment that you wanted to hang up the connection.

On a PC it usually was a signal to the computer on the other end to STOP whatever it was doing. One sometimes side-effect of sending an overly-long break signal was to cause the modem on the other end to hang-up the phone.

This whole BREAK signal was cheap and effective for telegraph and teletype operations, but soon became a big pain-in-the-butt for computer communications. Being a special, non-character-based signal, it required special handling, with special wires, circuits, IC’s, and computer handshakes to properly pass this “BREAK” signal along. This required an inordinate amount of extra hardware, and many systems just ignored BREAK. Even those that did handle BREAK properly denigrated this usage and encouraged people to use a designated control character for this, usually Control-C for most systems, sometimes Control-Y for VAX systems.

All this talk about the SysRq key and nobody mentioned that it is also commonly labelled “PrintScrn” (for Print Screen).

If I remember right, PrintScrn in DOS would send whatever currently appeared on the screen to the printer. In Windows, PrintScrn copies the entire desktop to the clipboard (which you can then paste into your favorite paint program, save, and sent to your friends bragging about how l33t your desktop is), and Alt+Printscrn will copy just the active window to the clipboard in the same way.

CTRL and SHIFT do some interesting things as well. While their purpose is pretty well known, most people don’t realize how they work. When you press “a” on your keyboard, your computer receives ASCII 97, which in binary works out to:

0110 0001

SHIFT toggles the 3rd-to-the-left bit (the ‘32’ bit) of this, making it:

0100 0001

which equals ASCII 65, or “A”. Interestingly enough, this rule doesn’t hold true for numbers or most other symbols on the keyboard.
CTRL toggles the 2nd-to-the-left AND the 3rd-to-the-left bits (bits 64 and 32), which means CTRL+a works out to:

0000 0001 ==> ASCII 1

(CTRL+b is ASCII 2, CTRL+c is ASCII 3, and so on.

CTRL+M is ASCII 13 (cr), or the “Carriage Return” key. In many places (a DOS prompt for one, the test of an IM window for another), Ctrl+M is synonymous with pressing return/enter. CTRL+I (ASCII 9 (tab)) is equivalent to tab in some places in the same way, and CTRL+H (ASCII 8 (bs)) is likewise equivalent to backspace. Many of these won’t work under Windows, where it distinguishes between the Control key being pressed and receiving the control characters normally (You can’t ALT+CTRL+I in place of ALT+TAB, for example) – but all of them will work under DOS or a DOS prompt.

OK…John W. Kennedy asserts that the 3270 “was never on the 3270”. You assert that is was. Who is right, exactly? If two men say they’re Jesus, one of them must be wrong. FTR, my confirmation on information receivied from my original sources backs up Mr. Kennedy, in that the 3270’s I have access to do not have original keyboards.

And yes, it is possible, and likely I’m confusing a variant of the 3270 with the “true” 3270.

What part of what I said was wrong? Were they or were they not left behind?

If the effect is to allow the screen to scroll while text is contuing to come over the wire, then this is the same effect - it stops it from scrolling, as far as you can see.

This is not the case on the “standard” Apple keyboards, true. But using a PC keyboard on an Apple (such as using a device like this one: http://www.ergonomic-office-computer-furniture.com/store/more_info.asp?Product_ID=116&Category_ID=12 ) re-maps the PC “Scroll Lock” key to be “Power/Reset”. One of our publishing computers here (a Mac) uses it in this manner. Beforehand, I had a bit of text which said I was focusing on American-style, PC-only keyboards, which got dropped off. Thus, my statement is correct for when a PC keyboard is sometimes used with a Mac, but I admit that it is misleading as written.

What I wrote in the original report was the following:

What exactly is incorrect about my interpretation of that, or what I quoted from the reference? You can make a program (such as a DOS TSR) that monitors INT 15H and have it respond to the SysRq key. Your VMM notes, while interesting from one standpoint, don’t really disagree with the function as-implemented in the IBM PC. So I want to know what is an error in what I wrote and the interpretation of what one can do with INT 15H?

That’s fine as additional background information. I came across much of the same history in my research on this, but much of it had to be cut to keep everything to a manageable size. What is the error in what I wrote?

It is almost always dual-labeled. Although the two are supposed to be totally separate functions, most modern computers (made since Bush came to office, I suppose) I tested it on map the <SHIFT>, <CTRL>, and <ALT> of “PrtSc” to be the same as “PrtSc” in Windows XP. I didn’t test in 95/98/ME/NT/2000, nor did I test in OS/2, where no doubt it would do something like “reformat hard drive in HPFS file system”. :wink:

Jesus, my head hurts. I’m going to ask my little tangental question and then go lie down, I feel like a Homo habilis at a meeting of Mensa.

My question is about overtype. Who’s brilliant idea was this? What turns it on? As far as I can tell, it’s controlled by a psychic “maximum fuck up” circuit in my computer, and it only activates overtype when I go back to edit a long piece of text in the middle, merrily blitzing text that I wanted to keep and causing me to throw my feces in frustration. I know that by hitting “NumLoc-Insert-NumLoc” I can turn it off, but by the time I notice the damage is done. So:

Who came up with this little gem, and for the love of God, Jesus and all the saints, WHY???

Is there a way to permanently disable this “feature” on my 'puter so it will never happen again?

Thank you.

In Windows 95 and later (including XP where I tested it, possibly including earlier versions of Windows), it works as I described – Alt+Printscreen captures the current window, Printscreen alone captures the desktop.

Granted, if you auto-hide the taskbar and the current window is maximimzed, the two capabilities are synonymous since the current window covers all of the desktop area.

Weirddave, I notice in Word that my overtype comes on when I (always accidentally) hit the “Insert” key. Hitting it again turns it off.

I agree that it can be a real pain in the ass! :smiley:

Well, I knew this question would be controversial regardless of any screwups and typos on my part. Wait until Staff Report 4 from me is posted, tentatively titled “Which is the one true God?”

I can’t tell you how to do it globally in your OS (but I’m sure there must be a way), but I can give you a tip of how to do it in Word.

From: http://www.darbois.net/articles/quid_macro.htm

Dave - see also this article:


Directories were not supported in DOS 1.x. They were introduced in DOS 2.x, when the PC XT was released. There was no real need for directories in DOS 1.x, as the only storage device was a 5.25" 160K or 320K floppy (later 180K/360K, 9 sectors instead of 8).

As for the 3270 stuff in the article:

First off, the PC and XT had the same keyboard. It had a scroll lock key http://www.pcguide.com/ref/kb/layout/stdXT83-c.html](http://www.straightdope.com/mailbag/mscrolllock.html) (top right).

Second, the 3270 was a dumb terminal, introduced about 10 years before the PC. Here’s a picture of the most common “3270”-type terminal, the 3278 http://www.cs.utk.edu/~shuford/terminal/ibm.html. IBM did produce a 3270 PC and a PC XT 370, and these did have a different keyboard with a few rows of function keys above the alpha keypad. The only picture I can find of these is a thumbnail in google image search: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=“3270+pc”.

The 3270 PC was a PC with a 3270 emulator board. The PC XT 370 was an XT with 3270 emulation and 370 mainframe emulation boards (3 in total, I believe). The 370 processor was a Motorola 68000 with custom microcode. Both of these computers were released in 1984, well after bothe the PC (1981) and XT (1983).

Here’t the announcement for the 3270 PC and PC XT 370 http://groups.google.com/groups?q=“3270+pc”&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&selm=12923%40sri-arpa.UUCP&rnum=4.

The TN3270 Emulation Users Guide (from 1998, Co. IBM) has a great diagram of a “typical” 3270 keyboard in Chapter 2, Figure 2-1. It has no Scroll Lock key shown in that figure. However, I also have seen a figure which depicts a Scroll Lock light, but no key, on a 3270 keyboard, which I find absolutely bizarre. This is yet another reason for some of the confusion in determining absolutely did the 3270 come with Scroll Lock originally, or did it not.

Based on the “peer-review” here, and further interrogation of my original sources over this day, I’ve asked Ed to revise the article online on a few points. Hopefully, this should remove most of the contention people have had with my article, and we can debate the outstanding ones to make the information as accurate as possible. Because if I was confused about the 3270 Scroll Lock -> PC connection from the sources I had, then that needs to be addressed. Getting the correct information out on the Straight Dope, and being flexible and right, is far more important than being inflexible and wrong. My sources have 3270 machines with non-standard keyboards on them, and many online references are somewhat confusing as to whether or not the Scroll Lock ever was on an original 3270. It seems likely to me I put 2 + 2 together and got 5. Or perhaps maybe it was e; I love that number.

However, on several issues where I was challenged in this thread, I feel I am not wrong, but rather that I have explained things in a different manner, from a different point of view, and to a different audience.

Regarding PC versus XT keyboards: another part of the “long version” of my article contained this note

Also, there is a mention of the Scroll Lock appearing on the PC 83-key keyboard, prior to the 84-key keyboard.

Layout of 83-key keyboard with Scroll Lock - http://www.cybergenetic.ca/ebook/14wrh03.gif

Article - http://www.cybergenetic.ca/ebook/wrh14.htm

What was the “84th key”, you may ask? SysRq, which apparently skipped over the 83-key keyboard.

Layout of 84-key keyboard with Scroll Lock and SysRq - http://www.cybergenetic.ca/ebook/14wrh04.gif

A few notes to make things more clear:

The PC and XT keyoards were identical. 83 keys. Scroll lock on the top right.

The AT keyboard had 84 keys, scroll lock top row, 2nd from right (SysRq took its spot!).

The PCjr keyboard had 62 keys. It was missing a lot of things (function keys, numeric keypad).

There are two main problems with 3270 as an inspiration for the PC keyboard story. First is that the 3270 uses EBCDIC, while the PC uses ASCII - there are a number of different characters. Second is that the PC screen is usually line- or character-oriented, but the 3270 is screen-oriented. On a DOS command line, you type something in on one line, and the computer responds back with line(s) of results – if it is more than can fit on your screen, it scrolls. On a 3270, you type in a bunch of things on a bunch of different lines, click “enter”, then wait for the mainframe to come back at you with a new page. There is no scrolling, so there is no scrolling to lock.

It’s more plausible that inspiration came from ascii terminals. The vt100 http://www.pfu.co.jp/hhkeyboard/kb_collection/vt100.gif has a “no scroll” key. I recall Wyse terminals having a “hold screen” or “pause” key.

I hate to be picky, but here goes:
“The Scroll Lock key on IBM PC-compatible computer keyboards first appeared on the keyboard of the IBM 3270”

“first appeared on the 3270” is incorrect, in several respects:
The 3270 appeared circa 1970, from IBM design centers in NY state. The PC is from Florida, about a decade later.
The 3270 CANT SCROLL THE SCREEN. It’s a very dumb terminal.
The 3270 keyboard is very much like a IBM Selectric keyboard, very unlike a PC keyboard.
The 3270 keyboard generated EBCDIC codes, not ASCII. (Well, the PC keyboard doesnt generate ASCII directly,it generates key up/down codes, but that’s another long story.)

“which is sometimes thought of as a combination mainframe terminal and personal computer”
Totally incorrect. The 3270 has no CPU, only about 2k of memory, and in no way can act as a computer. You may have been confused by several products which came out long after the 3270, which packaged a PC and 3270 emulation software in one box.

“The 3270 featured not only Scroll Lock but also other keys (such as SysRq, Pause, and Break, which I’ll discuss later)”
It’s impossible for a 3270 to send a “break”, as “break” is a async serial line protocol. The 3270 uses IBM’s syncronous HDLC protocol. Nothing like “break” can be sent. There is a mainframe “key unlock” or “attn” key which has a roughly similar function, but this would never be labeled “break”.

“When the IBM PC was created, its keyboard was modeled after that of the IBM 3270”
Doubtful, as the 3270 keyboard has the EBCDIC keytops and Selectric layout, and dark gray Selectric colors.
“although some 3270 keys such as Transmit, Dup, and Field Mark were left behind.”
True, but misleading, as those keys only have meaning on a block-mode terminal. The writer appears to not have any idea about the basic and huge differences between a synchronous block-mode terminal and a asynchronous character-at-a-time terminal.
“The original intent of the Scroll Lock key was to stop text from scrolling as it was transmitted from a mainframe or minicomputer–that way you could read it while continuing to download the rest of the text.”
No, the scroll lock key first appeared on the DEC VT-52 terminal and several other CRT terminals from the early 1970’s. At that time the terminals could not be built with more than one screen’s worth of memory. When you pressed “NO SCROLL” the terminal would immediately send a Control-S character to the computer, requesting that it immediately stop sending any more lines of text. There was no way possible for the terminal to keep accepting data, there just wasnt any place to put it. (A few terminals had an extra-cost memory expansion, but it was rarely ordered due to its cost (about $500) and its limited support by the mainframes of the era.)
To be fair, there were some premium terminals from HP and TI that had extra memory, but these were quite rare due to their cost ($3000 and up) and again many mainframes did not know how to interact well with these multi-page terminals.
The “NO SCROLL” bttons on the VT-52’s and VT-100’s were in my experience, rarely useful, as they only worked well with computers that knew about the terminal’s Control-S/Control-Q stop-and-go protocol, and the requirement that the mainframe stop transmitting instantaneously. Many mainframes were hooked up thru network concentrators which might have several lines of text in transit, so even if the terminal requested “STOP”, several lines of text might still be on their way to the terminal.

“Some computers at the time were still using 300-baud (and slower) modems, so pausing your download to read text would have been a waste of resources.”
This would have been a nice feature, but in over a decade of using many a comm program, I can’t recall a single one that had this feature.

“Scroll Lock was also useful in a command line environment such as DOS, where it could be used to stop the scrolling of program output.”
I wish I had a true raw MSDOS system still running. I’ve been using MSDOS since day one, and I don’t recall ever reading or hearing about SCROLL LOCK having this function. You could use Control-S and Control-Q to start and stop output.

In Windows, Scroll Lock isn’t interpreted as a useful event by the operating system, but some programs utilize it for special functions. In Microsoft Excel, for example, the Scroll Lock key allows you to scroll a spreadsheet with the arrow keys without moving the active cell pointer from the currently highlighted cell.

NOW YOUR’E ON THE RIGHT TRACK! Many programs, even in the old DOS days, used SCROLL LOCK as a signal to keep some or all of the screen from scrolling. it was more of a nuisance than a feature, as many people get disoriented when the arrow keys would subtly change their behavior.

“On a Macintosh, the Scroll Lock key sometimes served as a “power/reset” button.”

Well, not on any true Macintosh keyboard that I’ve ever seen. Apple tended to not hide functions under random keycaps. The power-on button on every ADB keyboard I’ve ever seen has a right-pointing triangle on it.

"In layman’s terms that means, “You can make a program monitor a specific location in your computer’s hardware so it can do something cool (or lame, depending on your point of view) when the SysReq key is pressed.” "
Very misleading. The whole point of the SysReq key is that it’s reserved by an omniscient uber-monitor, above any user program, even above any operating system. To describe it as usable by any “program” is to miss the whole point of the Sys-Req key.

" This function still works in 32-bit DOS applications under Windows, where pressing this key while the DOS window is active can (depending on the program) pause program execution."
Er, no. It may pause the scrolling of output, but the program keeps on running. You can test this yourself- open up a Command Prompt window and type some command that will run for a long time, like “DIR /S C:\foo.foo”. Hit Enter and you’ll see the disk light turn on as the DIR command searches the disk. Now press “Pause”. The disk light stays on, showing that the program has not been stopped in any way.

“The Break key, when combined with the Ctrl key, was used to terminate DOS applications.”
Er, not in general, no. It could be enabled to do so by adding a special command line to the CONFIG.SYS file, but it was a very hazardous thing to do, as many old DOS programs did not expect to get interrupted, and they’d often leave data files in inconsistent states.

“Some DOS communication programs used the Break key as a shortcut to quickly terminate a modem connection.”
I can’t recall a single one that did this. The BREAK key could be used to break a modem connection, but only on the ancient 1960’s pure Teletype clunker terminals. Maybe you conflated this into the PC era.
The BREAK signal on modem connections was usually interpreted by the mainframe as a “STOP EVERYTHING” signal, usefu when a program ran away and started printing out reams of nwanted gibberish.

“However, programmers, being loath to let extraneous keys sit unused on a keyboard, have found use for it as an operator in the LISP and Python programming languages.”
LISP predates ASCII keyboards, the IBM PC, even EBCDIC. There’s no way it could have a backquote as a standard operator. Some implementation of LISP have defined the backquote, but only in the add-on, not very clean “macro” package.

In summary, the original posting is just what you’d expect from a bright person, but one without direct knowledge of the ancestry of the SCROLL LOCK key, or true knowledge of 3270’s, sync versus async communications, no experience with old CRT terminals, and not much insight into the ways of DOS, keyboard BIOS calls, or the inner worknigs of DOS programs. That’s the way a bad posting gets built, with a lot of disjointed half-truths garnered from a variety of unreliable and chronologically disparate sources, then mashed together and formed into a “story” of sorts.
The information in the original posting could have been gotten by a quick Googling for SCROLL LOCK and a little off-the-wall conflating of the information so derived. This might get you a B+ if submitted as a high-school or junior-college research paper. But if given to anyone with a true, personal familiarity with the real facts, you’d get a D- at best. When 75% of the statements are at least partially false, many an old-timer will grind their teeth.
And now that article is out there, another generation of half-facts. Someday someone else will Google for SCROLL LOCK, find the TSD page and others, do a similar digestion, and there will be yet another SCROLL LOCKweb page out there, even farther away from any reality.
Now as I said, this kind of “research” may be acceptable in certain contexts, but the proud history of TSD has a much higher standard. Cecil traditionally has rooted out the REAL, ORIGINAL, RELIABLE SOURCES. Like real news reports in reliable journals. Or phone conversations with original participants or eyewitnesses. As differentiated from sources like: glancing at whatever oddball keyboard is handy, picking sentences from whatever odd web page has the words “scroll lock”, and the like.
We’ve seen similar stabs at research in other recent postings, such as the lamentable “touch lamp” and “toaster” postings, where it was very clear the writer had not a clue what really goes on inside toasters or touch lamps, new or old. And they have the hubris to keep insisting they know, and dig themselves in deeper with every botched re-wording. Either one has taken apart a toaster and looked at a touch-lamp design, or one hasnt. There’s no way to fake that kind of knowledge, and it’s immediately apparent to those that really know. At the very least, intellectual honesty might suggest that one qualify on’es statement with “Now, I havent ever seen or touched a XXXX, but this is what I’ve pieced together from little tidbits of information garnered thru a cursory Web search. I may have jumped to a few unwarranted conclusions here, so beware”. Compared to: “I talked to a nice man at XXX company, who led me to their history archives, where I found the original documents”.
Sorry to be so blunt, but TSD used to be one of the few places one could go to for a taste of the REAL STRAIGHT DOPE. It would be a shame for it to get devalued into just a repository for whatever half-facts one could scrape up.