What does the 'Scroll Lock' key on a PC keyboard do?

I've never known what it's for. And what does the 'Pause/Break' button do? That corner of the keyboard get quite neglected!

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  • 10 years ago
    Best answer

    The scroll lock key was meant to lock all scrolling techniques, and is a remnant from the original IBM PC keyboard, though it is not used by most modern-day software. In the original design, scroll lock was intended to modify the behaviour of the arrow keys. When the scroll lock mode was on, the arrow keys would scroll the contents of a text window instead of moving the cursor. In this usage, scroll lock is a toggling lock key like Num Lock or Caps Lock, which have a state that persists after the key is released.

    Today, this particular use of scroll lock is rare. Only a few modern programs still honor this behaviour, such as Microsoft Excel (in the behaviour of arrows—when scroll lock is on, the selection does not move)

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    Although your mother told you that there are many things to avoid touching (like downed electric lines, scorpions, and the "naughty place"), don't be afraid to touch the Scroll Lock key. Nothing bad will happen - in fact, probably nothing at all will happen. Once upon a time, however, something did.

    The Scroll Lock key has appeared on the keyboards of IBM personal computers since the original 83-key PC/XT and the 84-key AT layouts, and remains on the 101-key and greater "enhanced" keyboards currently in use. The Scroll Lock key wasn't on the original Macintosh keyboards but appears on the Mac's "enhanced" keyboard.

    The main intent of the Scroll Lock key was to allow scrolling of screen text up, down and presumably sideways using the arrow keys in the days before large displays and graphical scroll bars. You can see where this might have been handy in the DOS era, when screen output typically was limited to 80 characters wide by 25 rows deep. For some types of programs, spreadsheets being the obvious example, it's still handy now. In Microsoft Excel, Scroll Lock allows you to scroll a spreadsheet with the arrow keys without moving the active cell pointer from the currently highlighted cell. In Quattro Pro, another spreadsheet program, Scroll Lock works in a similar manner, although in contrast to Excel it's not possible to scroll the active cell pointer completely off the screen.

  • 10 years ago

    You have to remember that the origin of the PC was IBM, and they were a mainframe manufacturer. The SysRq is System Required and I think it was used to alert the mainframe to begin a log-in. The scroll lock button was used to stop and start a typed listing. For example if you have a long text file, and you issue the "type filename" command, then the file lists very quickly and pressing the scroll lock would pause the listing. Of course it doesn't seem to do that any more on a PC, but that is not a suprise, bearing in mind that Bill Gates developed the DOS operating system on a DEC computer. Looking at the DEC machines which used the ASCII character code instead of the IBM practice of using EBCIDIC, the start and stopping of a listing was achieved by using the Xoff and Xon characters, i.e. CTRL+ S and CTRL+Q. The CTRL+S still works on the DOS "type filename" command, for pausing the output, but pressing another key starts it again. DEC terminals were fitted with a Scroll-lock key, but this effectively just sent Xoff and Xon characters. These terminals also used Xoff and Xon as a transmission protocol for regulating the flow of data from the computer so that data was not lost when the buffer of the terminal was filled. This allowed the slow scrolling which suited the person reading the data on the terminal. The break key interrupts the program in just the same way as CTRL+C did on DEC and DOS, and still does in a DOS prompt box.

    The original PCs were intended to fulfill the secondary task of acting as an IBM terminal and therefore inherited all these extra keys, which serve no purpose anymore.

    I hope that helps and you will realise just how old I am to remember the halcyon days of the DEC VAX/VMS and PDP11/RSTS/RSX computers and also remember with dread the unwieldy and useless IBM mainframes running VSPC & TSO etc. You folk are so lucky that Bill cribbed from DEC and not IBM!

  • 10 years ago

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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    Scroll lock is a key (often with an associated status light) on most modern computer keyboards. The key is not frequently used and therefore some keyboards lack scroll lock altogether;[1] Apple Keyboards do not have a scroll lock key at all (except for some obsolete ADB keyboards).

    The scroll lock key was meant to lock all scrolling techniques, and is a remnant from the original IBM PC keyboard, though it is not used by most modern-day software. In the original design, scroll lock was intended to modify the behavior of the arrow keys. When the scroll lock mode was on, the arrow keys would scroll the contents of a text window instead of moving the cursor. In this usage, scroll lock is a toggling lock key like Num Lock or Caps Lock, which have a state that persists after the key is released.

    Today, this particular use of scroll lock is rare. Only a few modern programs still honor this behavior, such as Microsoft Excel (in the behavior of arrows—when scroll lock is on, the selection does not move), Lotus Notes, Forté Agent, and FL Studio. In modern GUI environments, scrolling is usually accomplished using means such as scrollbars or scroll wheels. Therefore, scroll lock can be regarded as a defunct feature in almost all modern programs and operating systems.

    Source(s): From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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  • 10 years ago

    Scroll lock is a key (often with an associated status light) on most modern computer keyboards. The key is not frequently used and therefore some keyboards lack scroll lock altogether;[1] Apple Keyboards do not have a scroll lock key at all (except for some obsolete ADB keyboards).

    The scroll lock key was meant to lock all scrolling techniques, and is a remnant from the original IBM PC keyboard, though it is not used by most modern-day software. In the original design, scroll lock was intended to modify the behavior of the arrow keys. When the scroll lock mode was on, the arrow keys would scroll the contents of a text window instead of moving the cursor. In this usage, scroll lock is a toggling lock key like Num Lock or Caps Lock, which have a state that persists after the key is released.

    Today, this particular use of scroll lock is rare. Only a few modern programs still honor this behavior, such as Microsoft Excel (in the behavior of arrows—when scroll lock is on, the selection does not move), Lotus Notes, Forté Agent, and FL Studio. In modern GUI environments, scrolling is usually accomplished using means such as scrollbars or scroll wheels. Therefore, scroll lock can be regarded as a defunct feature in almost all modern programs and operating systems.

  • 10 years ago

    Scroll lock is a relic or a left over key from the days before operating systems like Windows and the like came out, mainly for programmers when going through code, sort of a pause button. The pause / break button is very similar in this. You will rarely use them now, and as some other people have said, they're now used for other things due to the fact that you will rarely use them for the initially intended purpose.

  • 10 years ago

    A key found on a computer keyboard often located close to the keyboard pause key. The scroll lock key is intended to temporarily stop the scrolling of text or halt the operation of a program. There are not many software programs today that take advantage or have a use for this key.

  • 10 years ago

    Hi at a guess these are artifacts from the "green screen" era. Scroll lock was quite useful when oodles of text was pouring out on screen. There was no such thing as windows at the time nor was there a scroll bar.

    I'm not sure but I think the pause/break were also linked to the basic teletype functionality.

    As an aside it is so strange that the QWERTY keyboard has survived. This was invented to slow down typing speeds back in the days of the early type writers.

    Source(s): based on my own learning and experience
  • 10 years ago

    Although your mother told you that there are many things to avoid touching (like downed electric lines, scorpions, and the "naughty place"), don't be afraid to touch the Scroll Lock key. Nothing bad will happen - in fact, probably nothing at all will happen. Once upon a time, however, something did.

    The Scroll Lock key has appeared on the keyboards of IBM personal computers since the original 83-key PC/XT and the 84-key AT layouts, and remains on the 101-key and greater "enhanced" keyboards currently in use. The Scroll Lock key wasn't on the original Macintosh keyboards but appears on the Mac's "enhanced" keyboard.

    The main intent of the Scroll Lock key was to allow scrolling of screen text up, down and presumably sideways using the arrow keys in the days before large displays and graphical scroll bars. You can see where this might have been handy in the DOS era, when screen output typically was limited to 80 characters wide by 25 rows deep. For some types of programs, spreadsheets being the obvious example, it's still handy now. In Microsoft Excel, Scroll Lock allows you to scroll a spreadsheet with the arrow keys without moving the active cell pointer from the currently highlighted cell. In Quattro Pro, another spreadsheet program, Scroll Lock works in a similar manner, although in contrast to Excel it's not possible to scroll the active cell pointer completely off the screen.

    Other programs use Scroll Lock for special functions. It's said (although I haven't personally verified this) that the Linux operating system as well as some early mainframe and minicomputer terminals employed Scroll Lock to stop text from scrolling on your screen in command-line sessions - pausing the scrolling, in effect. The ancient DOS adventure game "Rogue" (one of my all-time favorites) used Scroll Lock to scroll your character's movement through the ASCII dungeons on the display. I'm told some computers in the late 1980s used the Scroll Lock key to halt the scrolling of the boot-up messages that appeared when you started the computer. This last use may be apocryphal, as I could find no examples of computers that displayed this behavior. The point is, Scroll Lock sometimes does something besides make that little light light up.

    MNysssssssssssssssssssymMMMMMM

    M/` ``mMMMMM

    M+-` `.dMMMMM

    M+:` `` ``` `.dMMMMM

    M+:` +:---::-:+/` `.dMMMMM

    M+:` `:-:.- :---: `.dMMMMM

    M+:` / ----.+:` `.dMMMMM

    M+:` ././--/`// `.dMMMMM

    M+:` `.dMMMMM

    M+-```.............` `.dMMMMM

    M/...--:::::::::::--` `dMMMMM

    M+-.-::////////////:-``.mMMMM

    MNdhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhy

  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    The scroll lock key is intended to temporarily stop the scrolling of text or halt the operation of a program. There are not many software programs today that take advantage or have a use for this key.

    Microsoft Excel is a good example of a software program that uses this key. If scroll lock is enabled on the keyboard when you press any of the arrow keys the screen will move in that direction but the selected cell will not change.

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