Does anyone, anywhere, ever…

… use the number lock key on the keyboard? I’ve been typing on keyboards for more than 25 years, and I’ve never once thought, “I wish my numbers didn’t work. Oh look. A button!”

Ostriches have wings, humans have an appendix, and keyboards have a number lock key. Ostriches and humans don’t have a choice. The smart keyboard maker would offer options in the same manner that car companies offer remote starters and leather. For example, I’d replace my number lock key with a missile launcher. My enemies had better hope I don’t slip…

Down the road from me is a traffic light with a hanging sign that says “Wait for Green.” My town must have had a surplus in the road-sign budget that year. It leads me to suspect that the keyboard makers have a huge room full of number lock keys they have to use up.

That’s my thought for the day.

Carry on.


I have two number-themed videos. Your choice.

The first is “One is the Loneliest Number” by Three Dog Night, because I think it would appeal to more of you.  The second is “Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden, in honor of the man on drums, Clive Burr. He died last week at the young age of 56 from multiple sclerosis. Goodbye, Clive. Tour the stars!



Clive Burr 1957-2013

Clive Burr 1957-2013


27 responses to “Does anyone, anywhere, ever…

  • Janna G. Noelle

    You know, I went through two prior computers without even knowing what the number lock button did. My current laptop doesn’t even have one, so I guess that too proves how useful it is.

    My current laptop does have an odd button labeled PAUSE BREAK, though; I’m also unsure what that does. Personally, I’m holding out for the ability to PAUSE time at will, and BREAK the fabric of the space-time continuum so I can venture into other dimensions. If you don’t hear from me in a while, you’ll know what happened.

    • ericjbaker

      Say “hi” to my orange superball when you get there.

      One of the (not) great unexplained mysteries of my life is the orange ball that vanished right before my eyes and was never found, despite being in a contained space that has long since been torn up and renovated. It was also the sight of a random bracelet falling out of mid air and hitting the girl next door on the head.

      **scary music**

  • Andrew Toynbee

    I wonder if the number lock is a throwback to the days of mechanical typewriters – it’s just that no-one ever thought to remove it…or figured out what to put in its place. That particular button really, really Pi’es me off when IT configure works PCs to start-up with Number Lock switched off – meaning that I always have to type the alpha-numeric password TWICE.

  • goanflavour

    After reading your blog post, I noticed this little key for the properly for the first time! Turns out that it is useful on a laptop to access certain keys and putting the accent of French letters.
    Thanks, I would never have learnt this if not for your post! Cheers!

  • Richard Leonard

    Funny you should mention that. A colleague at work was trying to log into a virtual machine on his computer. (In case I have to explain virtual machine: It’s a computer running as software within another computer. Really cool stuff.)
    He couldn’t log in and it turned out the Virtual Machine’s Num Lock key was on but on the host computer it was off. And we couldn’t change it! Frickin’ computers!
    But in answer to your question, yes I do use it when doing tedious data entry of lots of numbers such as when I analyse 7 years worth of energy bills to figure out why in the last 12 months it’s more than doubled in cost while my usage has remained largely constant. Actually that reminds me. I was going to write a rant-post about that… but still waiting for an acceptable answer from energy company. The rant-post may never be written…

    • ericjbaker

      I’m just not sure why somebody would lock numbers in the off position. They come in handy sometimes.

      Good luck with your energy bill situation. Death by a thousand cuts.

  • Jill Weatherholt

    “A missile launcher”….that is too funny! I think I would like to replace mine with a Keurig Brewer or a voice that says, “Back off” when I push it. Great song by Three Dog Night. I also love, “Old Fashioned Love Song.”

  • nrhatch

    OK . . . here’s the Numbers Lock tutorial (or Numbers in a Nutshell):

    When Numbers Lock is “ON” and the little light is lit . . . it turns OFF the scrolling features so that your keypad can be used as a calculator:

    That is all. 😀

    • ericjbaker

      How wonderfully useless! I suppose if I lost my mouse and the arrow key section of my keyboard were damaged during a rabid hamster attack,* I might need that feature.

      As always, Hatch, you are a wealth of information, enlightenment (I was going to say guruness, but I’m not sure that’s a word), and funnies.

      *Rabid hamsters aren’t known to deliberately attack arrow keys, but they aren’t known for their surgical striking capabilities, either.

  • statedd

    Vestigial keys 🙂
    I googled and found this:
    It doesn’t explain num lock but it does explain pause/break and ~

  • Bryan Edmondson

    I thought “Numb Lock” activated some sort of long term intoxicating serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitter release in my brain. I have been pressing that button forever just to get a buzz.

    Where do tea bags go when they die? Vimeo art video. Just for you “Earl”

  • cattaneoHernan21

    The web is great, long time till my last visit. Added to favs. Greets

  • lectorconstans

    I grew up using a number keypad. Then AT&T came along and turned the world upside-down,.(A pox on AT&T!)

    For a long time, until recently, I had a laptop without a numeric keypad. It was grim, exhausting, frustrating. (I use numbers a lot, mostly financial numbers.)

    Then I got a laptop with a numeric keypad. Life is good again. I can key in numbers without looking, and using just one hand.

    The “NUM LOCK” key is there for people who don’t do numbers, and prefer that the “cursor around” keys be off to the right.

    See? We accommodate both types of people. (“People are divided into two kinds, ……”.)

  • ericjbaker

    I can’t deal with a laptop that has no number keypad, and I don’t even do numbers that often. I’m a slow, spastic typist as is, so I need all the help I can get.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • James Ramsey

    The missile Launcher key would come in handy when we get those pesky bad reviews…Hmmm…I wonder if there is an app for that?

  • Dera Luce

    Sometimes I just think, “Excuse me, Num Lock, can you not?” And while I suppose Num Lock looks into the eyes of its master with tear-filled eyes, I don’t really care. It’s of no use to me.

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