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Lower Case, Upper Case, and Shift

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Back in the good old days when we used printing presses, printers would have a toolbox of sorts that they used to carry around letters. This is where we get our use of the words "Lower case" and "Upper case."


Uncapitalized letters are called "Lower case" because they came from the lower half (and easier to access) of a printer's case. Originally, lower case letters were called "miniscule."

Capitalized letters are called "Upper case" because they came from the upper half of a printer's case. By the way, the original term for capital letters was "majuscule."

Because of this old storage convention, we still refer to small letters as lowercase and capital letters as uppercase.

Microsoft's Copilot AI's idea of what a print shop's print case would look like. We still aren't there quite yet.


In the not quite so olden days, but still a long time ago, when we began to use typewriters more than printing presses, the typers kept their letters on what was called the carriage. This carriage had lower case letters on the lower part of the carriage, and upper case letters on the upper part of the carriage. Hitting the "Carriage Shift" key would shift the carriage up or down, depending on the lettering you wanted to use. This key was later just shortened to the "Shift" key.

Please be aware, this key is not the "Caps Lock" key. These days, there are a billion shifts and locks on modern keyboards and pretty much nobody knows what they actually do.

Lower Case, Upper Case, and Shift is a part of a series on Old Stuff

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