What Does the "Home" Key Do in Microsoft Editors?

I want to give a little anecdote on how I changed how people program. It was some time around 1990, maybe plus or minus a year. I was working on the Microsoft Access programming team at Microsoft. Actually they still hadn't settled on a name yet and eventually stole the name of a communications product Microsoft had shipped earlier and re-used it for their database, but I digress. I spent the majority of my hours in the buildings at Microsoft. My friends also worked at Microsoft, so when I wasn't working, I'd frequently head over to their office and just hang out. We all worked long hours.

One of my friends there was a programmer named Richard. Richard ostensibly worked on the database engine side of Microsoft Access, whereas I was on the user-interface side, but Richard had kind of "god-level" access to all of the code across Microsoft's Application Division. Anything that wasn't part of the operating system at Microsoft, he was authorized and trusted to go in and change.

I was sitting in Richard's office one night, and he said there had been a debate on what the "Home" key should do in Microsoft's editors. One camp said it should go to the beginning of the line. The other camp said it should go to the first non-whitespace character on the line, after any spaces or tabs. He asked, "what do you think it should do?" I said, "what if the first time you pressed it, it went to the first non-whitespace character, but if you were already there, it went to the start of the line?" He said, "that's a good idea!" And as I sat there, he went in and changed the code in Visual Studio and the Visual Basic editors. Try it, because it still does that today.

Now this was kind-of the dark ages in software development. Microsoft was just putting its first usability testing groups together, so today you'd probably do some usability tests to see if that really worked for people. Or at least have a meeting about it. But I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, with the right programmer with the right access and skills. I got asked the question on what I thought it should do and everyone else gets to live with it for all time.

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