Imagine… It’s around 2:30 p.m. You’re stuck at work, and you’re desperate to get away for a coffee because your boss is breathing down your neck for, I don’t know, a line graph or something. But suddenly, you glance down at your keyboard, and you get an idea. What would happen if I actually hit the Pause Break key?
So you spring into action, mashing your index finger down on it, and as it bottoms out, your boss freezes, and a delightful coffee appears right in front of you. Well, no no… So what is the Pause Break button actually there for then? I mean, unlike the Scroll Lock key, it doesn’t even toggle that little light on your keyboard.
Well, the origins of the Pause Break key actually go all the way back to the 1800s when zesty memes were sent via telegraph rather than the internet. Back then, if two people were communicating via teleprinter, one person could press Break to break the circuit, which effectively interrupted the sender and let them know that the other end needed to transmit something.
This usually happened when one new source that was sharing a telegraph line with others had some breaking news to report. But even though teleprinters have long been obsolete, the Pause Break key stuck around on computer keyboards as a means to stop or terminate a running program.
Now, this functionality was much more common back before graphical operating systems were a thing. But for fun, you can still use Control+Break to terminate a program in DOS or in other text-only environments. But on a more practical note, you might also still see a system administrator using the Pause Break key if a PC is connected to a mainframe and if he has to interrupt the boot process to recover a password.
But that doesn’t have much applicability to you folks at home, does it? So a far more common use for you would be to pause that flow of text you might see on own computer at boot time, like if you would like to see BIOS messages that might help you understand or troubleshoot any issues you’re having. Now, it doesn’t work on every PC, but give it a shot the next time you fire up your system if you’re curious.
The Pause button will also stop any huge avalanche of
text scrolling down your screen if you’re using command prompt. And even if you can’t be bothered to care about anything that has to do with old-school command-line computing, there are still two modern applications for Pause Break.
Holding down the Window key and pressing Pause Break will bring up your system property screen. And some games will let you press Pause to pause your gameplay. Makes sense, right?
It does make me wonder why that isn’t the standard, but even if your favorite game doesn’t use the Pause key for
this purpose, you can always use hotkey software to make this extraneous button do whatever you’d like, be it in games or in Adobe Premiere.