Research

Key Figures

  • Number of visitors to http://capsoff.org in first week of campaign: 20,000.
  • Number of comments on original Slashdot story: 1220.
  • Average comments on a Slashdot story: 100-200.
  • Number of signatories to online petition: 915.
  • Number of members in Google capsoff group: 470.
  • Number of press interviews in first week of CAPSoff campaign: 5.
  • Estimated annual global cost of Caps Lock errors: $2-5bn.
  • Age of Caps Lock key: over 20 years.

Cost of Caps Lock

Cost of Mistyping

Can we quantify the cost to keyboard users of the errors caused by Caps Lock? If we assume that in an information economy, 1/3rd of people work with computers, and the average user presses this key on average three times per day, and we estimate the cost of that mistake to be 30 seconds, to realise the error and restore normal typing, that is 1/9600th of GDP that is wasted by this key. It does not seem much but that's about $1.2bn per year for the USA alone.

Cost of Inefficiency

The Caps Lock key occupies a space that is very useful for touch typists. In older keyboards this was used for the Control key and today many people remap Caps Lock to Control, on systems that allow this. How much do we pay for the hundreds of millions of people who have to reach just that little bit further to hit Control, the most common short cut combination key?

Cost of Fabrication

What is the cost of fabricating hundreds of millions of unused keys? A modern general-purpose keyboard attempts to support large numbers of historical applications. Is this still sensible on new keyboards today? For example, do we need a separate numeric keypad for general-purpose computing? Do we need the function keys? If the answer is that only a small niche of users need these features, what is the cost of this extra plastic to the rest of the community?

Cost of Relic Keyboards

Caps Lock is just the most prominent of many keyboard problems. Consider the lack of a single standard for Roman alphabet keyboards (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout). As Wikipedia says, "While the core of the keyboard, the alphabetic section, remains fairly constant, and the numbers from 1-9 are almost invariably on the top row, keyboards differ vastly in the placement of punctuation characters, which punctuation characters are included, whether numbers are accessible directly or in a shift-state, [and] the presence and placement of accent deadkeys and accented characters."

While it's obviously useful to have all the letters of an alphabet available without extra control keys, the Roman alphabetic layouts are weakly designed from many points of view:

  • Commonly-used letters are not on the home row.
  • There are arbitrary differences between keyboards for different alphabets.
  • They do not work well for numerals, without a seperate numeric keypad (a problem for notebook users, who are a large proportion of computer users today).
  • They do not allow the entry of multiple languages, a problem for bi-/trilingual writers.

How much does the European economy pay from having 10 different keyboard layouts? First, each keyboard layout is a separate product - if we cannot produce CAPSfree keyboards for cost reasons, how can we justify producing ten different layouts for the EU? Second, the different European layouts make it hard for individuals who write in more than one language. How much money would a single Latin-1 keyboard save


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