A few weeks ago Google unveiled a prototype of a new Chrome based netbook to the world. Truly a computer for the Internet age, several interesting design choices were made with this netbook, including the decision to remove the Caps Lock key from the keyboard, replacing it with a key that inserts a random pictures of a cat when pressed. Since then, the main nerds on the Internet have been discussing the implications of this; whether having less people screaming on the internet was worth the economic devastation felt by the increased time it would take for people to type acronyms.
Because there's nothing I'd enjoy less than talking to some guy with a beard talk about keyboard design, and with a desire to get a fresh view on this matter, I chose to approach someone with a more immediate understanding of the issues at hand: the Caps Lock key himself.
A notorious recluse, Caps Lock agreed to meet with me at his ranch in New Mexico. Spread over 2800 acres, this is Caps Lock's refuge from the prying eyes of the world. Thanks to the licensing fees obtained from the production of millions of keyboards a year, Forbes estimated Caps Lock is worth an estimated $550 million, invested primarily in his property, as well as a 30% stake in Capitol Records.
Pulling in to the driveway of his sprawling ranch home, I observed Caps Lock leaning casually against a post on his front porch. He greeted me with an easy smile as I got out of the car. I turned on my tape recorder and began... CRACKED: So Caps Lock, how have you been lately? CAPS LOCK: I've been good Chris. Keeping busy around the homestead. Making the most out of how lucky I've been. CRACKED: Yeah? That's terrific. I guess before we start, there is one thing I suspect my readers will be immediately curious about: You don't speak in capital letters yourself? The Caps Lock key tensed up momentarily. He had heard this question many times before, and was weary of both it and the open mouthed idiot who'd asked it. CAPS LOCK: Well no, of course not. I mean that's shouting, isn't it? And besides, no-one likes to take their work home with them, right? Does a waiter enjoy waiting tables in his free time? Does a sanitation worker enjoy emptying garbage cans in his free time? CRACKED: I guess not. CAPS LOCK: I suppose a plumber might enjoy laying pipe in his free time. CRACKED: Ha ha ha ha! Caps Lock flashed a winning smile. I could tell right there that this Caps Lock key was an O.K. guy. With a nod he turned and led me into his home, giving me a brief tour of the place. Hanging on the walls were pictures of him with various media figures and power brokers. Barbara Bush. Johann Qwerty. The letter R. He showed me some photographs of himself playing with a group of inner city lower case letters. Eventually we sat down at his kitchen table and continued. CRACKED: Ok, let's get down to business. You've heard of course the news that Google is planning on releasing a computer without a Caps Lock key. Does this impending banishment concern you? CAPS LOCK: Well, it's only one keyboard so far, so I'm not too concerned, no. CRACKED: You're not worried that this is the start of a trend? Quite a few online commentators have been saying some pretty unkind things about you. CAPS LOCK: Well sure, but you know as well as anyone that you don't have to clear a very high bar to write things on the Internet. CRACKED: I see what you did there. CAPS LOCK: Besides, the way I see it, I think a lot of people aren't upset at me, they're upset at the way I've been used. CRACKED: You mean like how people mashing keys with their ham hands in various chatrooms, shouting their opinions on Buffy to each other?
CAPS LOCK: Right. But if people are using me inappropriately, the fault for that shouldn't lie with me, should it? CRACKED: Well we do restrict gun ownership somewhat. And the right to drive a car. CAPS LOCK: Sure, but those are potentially lethal. I've never killed anyone. CRACKED: What about the CIA? CAPS LOCK: What about the CIA...oh I get it. CRACKED: Also the AIDS. CAPS LOCK: Yeah, ok. I get it. CRACKED: And DEEP FISTING. CAPS LOCK: You just made that up. CRACKED: No, it was a project started by DARPA in the 80's. We had reached the part of the interview where I was about to get slapped. Broaching this threshold is a key part in every interview, as it ensures the interviewee's emotions are raw, and that they're ready to provide more telling answers. I pressed onward. CRACKED: What do you perceive the use for you is in this modern age? Do people still need to type entirely in capital letters? CAPS LOCK: Some do, yes! Engineers and architects often have to use capital letters when applying labels to technical drawings. And programmers often need capitalization when coding. And anyone working in data entry will have used me extensively and responsibly. CRACKED: But aren't most of those people nerds? They'll be able to remap key settings to get that kind of functionality. But us regular, non-technical folk can get by without you, surely? CAPS LOCK: What about screenwriters? Names and important props are often capitalized in conventional script formats. One of my proudest accomplishments was how I formatted the stage directions for the Schindler's List shooting script. CRACKED: Ahh. Also Bad Boys 2 though, yes? CAPS LOCK: (though clenched teeth) Yes. Also that.
The shooting script for Bad Boys 2 made fantastic use of capital lettersCaps Lock turned away from me, his eyes watering. A phlegmy noise, as he sucked back on his now running nose. CAPS LOCK: I'm sorry. It just gets to me, you know? All the constant criticism. The hate mail I get. It would make your blood curdle. Death threats written entirely in lower case. Dolls with their eyes replaced with smashed caps locks keys. There's one video on Youtube of this guy slowly lowering his balls onto me again and again. It has 18 million views. I nodded. The Internet could be fucking awesome sometimes. Caps Lock inhaled through his nostrils, pulling more snot back into his head. His gaze shifted slightly to his arm. Swallowing, he rolled up the sleeve of his shirt, revealing a series of deep parallel scars on his forearm. Some were bright red, maybe a few weeks fresh. Others were little more than white lines. CRACKED: Oh man. How long have you been doing that? CAPS LOCK: The first time? I guess about a month after AOL gave its users Internet access. CRACKED: That was a huge mistake. But it wasn't your mistake. You can't beat yourself up like that. CAPS LOCK: You don't get it! I'm worthless! I'm nothing! What they say about me is true. It would be better if I was just gone! CRACKED: No, you're not worthless. You said it yourself. Some people use you responsibly. CAPS LOCK: Do you use me? I stammered and stalled, struggling to think of a better reason than "Sometimes when I'm reaching for A" CRACKED: It's not important whether or not I use it. CAPS LOCK: Promise me you'll use me. CRACKED: I can't - but it's not personal. Cracked has this ethics policy about making these sorts of promises to interviewees, ever since Brockway freed all those snakes at the zoo. CAPS LOCK: Then I'm worthless. CRACKED: You're not worthless. CAPS LOCK: I've done so many awful things. CRACKED: That wasn't you Caps Lock! That was the people who used you! CAPS LOCK: (Barely audible) No. There were some things I did alone. A chill in the air. Was a window open somewhere? I took a breath. CRACKED: What have you done Caps Lock? He shook his head, trying to shake the thought away, like one might rattle a pebble out of a shoe. CRACKED: I think the reason you agreed to this interview was because you wanted to tell someone. CAPS LOCK: Maybe. With a flick of his head, Caps Lock gestured for me to follow him. We exited the kitchen and made our way into a back hallway. From there we descended down a dark staircase to the lower floor of his home. Here I found a carpeted room with a sad looking ping pong table pushed against one wall, old keyboards stacked up on it. I could see he'd been mutilating them, prying up the keys with a butter knife and reassembling them, spelling nonsense cursewords in the home row. FURTBAMPY. DONGPHEAT. Etc. Caps Lock ignored this and crossed the room to another door, which he slowly opened, revealing a darkened room behind. I followed him in, eyes straining in the dim light. He found the switch, and threw it, illuminating what appeared to be a neglected wine cellar. There on the floor in front of me sat two bound figures, hoods over their heads. CRACKED: What the hell? Caps Lock reached down and pulled the hoods off his prisoners, revealing the faces of the Left and Right Shift keys. CAPS LOCK: Look what I've done and tell me there's not something wrong with me! Both Shift keys were in awful shape. They each had multiple thin cuts on their faces and bodies. Behind me, I stared, eyes wide, as Caps Lock withdrew a long curved sword from a cupboard. CAPS LOCK: The keyboard has room for two shift keys, but can't find room for me? Tell me how that's fucking fair? CRACKED: Touch typists make use of both shift keys... CAPS LOCK: TOUCH TYPISTS CAN TOUCH TYPE MY BALLS. CRACKED: Ok... CAPS LOCK: WITH THEIR MOUTHS. Caps Lock started pacing around, dragging the katana around on the ground, making an awful scraping sound. CRACKED: What exactly do you think your plan is here? That they can't get rid of you if you kill the shift keys? Because I'm not sure that's how manufacturing works. RIGHT SHIFT: Yeah, you try telling him. See how far it gets you. With a sudden movement, the Caps Lock key swung the sword around, striking Right Shift in the neck with the flat of the blade. Right Shift cried out in agony, a huge welt blossoming on his neck. LEFT SHIFT: Please Caps! Stop this! We haven't done anything to you! CAPS LOCK: You haven't done anything to me you job stealing bitch? You haven't tried to take the bread out of Caps Lock's children's mouths? LEFT SHIFT: You don't have children! CAPS LOCK: Because I can't afford them! I'M LOSING MY JOB REMEMBER? CRACKED: Caps Lock, everything you are doing here is completely insane, for, just, a whole variety of reasons. I really think you should take a step back and slow down. A weariness settled over the key. He looked like he was about to cry. CAPS LOCK: All right. CRACKED: Good. CAPS LOCK: But only if you press me first. CRACKED: I really don't want to do that. CAPS LOCK: Press me. CRACKED: No, I think that would be overstepping my boundaries as an interviewer. And as a human being. I mean... you... you clearly have an erection. CAPS LOCK: That's right. And if you press me it will get bigger. THAT'S HOW I WORK. LEFT SHIFT: Please mister. It's the only way he'll stop. CRACKED: Damnit. This is just like that Tim Robbins interview all over again. Jaw set, I carefully leaned forward and pressed Caps Lock. A small blue LED set into the ceiling turned on. He moaned in pleasure. CAPS LOCK: Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Yeah. Behind him I watched as Right Shift stood up, having loosened his bindings while I distracted our captor. With a quick lunge he tackled Caps Lock from behind, struggling to wrestle the sword from his grasp. But with a twist Caps Lock managed to pull the blade down, slicing Right Shift's hand. As Right Shift recoiled, screaming in pain, Caps Lock brought the sword across in a horizontal arc, silencing his victims cries, and replacing them with a horrible burbling sound. CAPS LOCK: I'M AFRAID THAT WAS A CAPITAL OFFENSE. His back turned, I realized I had but a slim moment to act. I charged at the Caps Lock key and wedged my car keys in the gap behind his head. CAPS LOCK: Ahhh, my socket! Twisting and prying, I managed to pop the front of the key off, sending it tumbling to the floor below, leaving the naked socket behind. Caps Lock dropped the sword and thrashed around blindly. CAPS LOCK: I can't see! What did you do to me you son of a bitch!? CRACKED: I guess you could say I had a capital idea. CAPS LOCK: RAAARRSRRRTGH! Moving quietly, I bent forward to scoop up the sword, and kicked the key to the far side of the room. Severing the bindings around Left Shift's hands and feet, I helped her up and we ran from Caps Lock's cave of horrors, and the capitalized exclamations he hurled at us as we fled.
Comforting the hysterical Left Shift as we sped away, I reflected on the cruelty of a world that could drive a key over the edge like that. A key with so much promise, tormented by a lifetime of abuse, and neglect, and the capitalization of Martin Lawrence screenplays. Now isolated, and insane. Truly, we have gotten the Caps Lock key we deserved.
My ruminations on the wretchedness of man's treatment of its keyboards were halted by the increasingly inflamed Left Shift, the intensity of our shared brush with death having sparked a fire within her. The details of the sexual encounter which followed, although revealing even more about the depravity of man, will, for now, have to wait for another column. ________________________