We've been scrolling backwards for so long that 'down' looks like 'up' to us. Is it time to purge an old habit?
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Apple dares to make scrolling 'right'

Sept. 4, 2011

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2011, The Post-Standard

Imagine we're sitting together at a table, across from each other, having a cup of coffee. You ask me for the sugar, so I slide the little white jar away from you.

Away from you? What kind of nonsense is this?

Yet you do that kind of thing every day, without even once thinking about it, when you use your computer.

From the introduction of the first home computers in the '70s and '80s to now, scrolling anything on your screen has been backwards, and you've probably never given it a thought.

To scroll the text on a web page up so you can see more of the page, you click your mouse on the scroll bar and pull down. Let's go through this again: You want to move the contents up, so you scroll down.

Or if you want to move the contents down, you scroll up.

Backwards (or "retrograde") scrolling wasn't a problem for anybody until the iPad came along. On the iPad, you don't scroll with a mouse, dragging a scroll bar. You scroll by touching the screen and pushing the page up or down. In other words, on an iPad you actually touch the page or the text and push it in the direction you want it to go.

Imagine that coffee klatch again. The mouse kind of person would slide the sugar shaker left to go right; the iPad kind of person would slide it right to go right. It's not that the mouser got it all wrong. It's just that the mouse person wouldn't be moving the "real" thing, but just a scrollbar. The iPadder would be doing "natural" scrolling.

Back to the iPad. It's made by Apple, which means it's from Steve Jobs, the Apple founder, who micromanaged everything Apple creates. Guess what? When your new product is adopted by practically everybody, even the Queen, you might want your other products to work the same way. Steve has always wanted the Mac to work like the iPad.

You could see this next thing coming, right? In the months before his recent retirement as head of Apple, Steve Jobs wanted Macs to have touch screens just like the iPad has.

That won't happen tomorrow or even next year. But it's in Apple's plans. Mac users should take note: Your world is going to change.

And Windows users can stop feeling smug. Microsoft will do the same thing. Nobody likes being caught with their scrolling finger down.

In the mean time -- that's a long mean time, maybe five years -- all of us can celebrate innovation. Sometimes it happens with a bang, sometimes a slide. I don't know about you, but I'm glad Apple's willing to give us all a nudge.

Maybe we could interest Apple in tackling the national debt. Or the 2X4 crisis. The debt you know about. As for 2X4s, they're not really 2 inches one way and they're not really 4 inches the other. And this problem has been going on for years.…