Tech Geeker Dogma: Swapping Capslock Ctrl

By Xah Lee. Date:

[the following is originally a post in a thread in that became a flamewar.]

The CapsLock position for Ctrl is actually not bad. Excellent design in fact. For example, of the 3 keyboard designs i admire, one of them is “Truly Ergonomic” (TE).

[see Best Ergonomic Keyboards, Xah Pick]

on TE, it actually put Shift key on the CapsLock position, on both sides of the keyboard! What a fantastic, great, thoughtful, design.

Question: Why are you against the Capslock position then?

Answer: it's because the tech-geeking faakheads.

There are certain class of programers, a subculture, who pride themselves around the term hacker. These people, collectively loosely have certain way or habit and thought pattern, and a subset of them are loud-mouthers on some issues (such as our Thad Floryan fellow here, who, every time would sting me about CapsLock/Ctrl switch when i write about keyboard. Which, is perfectly fine, just don't blame me for my equally reasonable responses.) [see Computing Culture: What's Hacker?]

The hacker types (for lack of better term), often insists on certain geek ways that are often scientifically baseless and harmful. For example, the advice to swap CapsLock/Ctrl, the cry against GUI, the cry against mouse, the numerous unix slogans, the idolatry of emacs, the slogan about laziness (perl), the slogan about lambda knight or idolatry of lisp as god lang, usually as dogma. Motherfaaking faakheads. For example, one slogan “Be conservative in what you send; be liberal in what you accept.” which damaged the web for 2 decade. [see HTML5 Doctype, Validation, X-UA-Compatible, and Why Do I Hate Hackers]

But what's technically wrong with swapping CapsLock/Ctrl?

Here is the deal. On a newly designed keyboard such as that TE, the position to the left of A is a top valued position. Also, notice that TE keyboard is symmetric, fixing one of the major problem of traditional keyboard. So, CapsLock or Shift are on the right side at the same place too. (similar to Enter key, but without extra key column in between)

If you are designing a new keyboard, it's great. But if you are creating workaround over standard PC keyboard, then the advice of swapping CapsLock/Ctrl is a entire new story. For example, you could swap Ctrl/Alt. The Alt is used by thumb, and available on both sides. That is immediately superior workaround on most keyboards (except laptops). There are many issues, alternatives, i've analyzed in detail in my article and i won't repeat here. [see Emacs: Why You Should Not Swap {CapsLock, Control} Keys]

But the thing about the motherfaaking techgeekers, such as our Thad Floryan fellow here, is that they often blindly insists on hackerdom dogma.

Sure, on many situations, swapping CapsLock/Ctrl is a perfect solution. For example, on laptops. On laptops, keys are tiny, especially the Alt key, and usually they are not available no right side. The CapsLock key on laptop is a big key. It's really a great solution. But you see, tech geekers are not concerned about this. Thad, never give the qualifications about swapping CapsLock/Ctrl. Instead, they typically go like this: “I type for decades, never had problem, you should swap CapsLock/Ctrl, it's how keyboard should be, look at Sun Micro keyboards, and all the keyboard of 1920s. God designed that way. And look at vi keyboard, h j k l. emacs and vi. and IBM Model M! God says. Therefore you should. KISS.”

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