NOAA’s teletype center during World War II. Image Credit: NOAA Photo Library via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Severe weather is serious business, so it’s hard to resist the urge to yell at people about it—but the National Weather Service is going to try. As of May 11, the NWS is going to try out mixed-case messages—as in, they’re going to take their fingers off the caps lock button. The change will start rolling out slowly in May, and almost all NWS messages should look less shouty by the end of the year.
National Weather Service alerts have stayed ENTHUSIASTICALLY CAPS-LOCKED for decades because of old technology. The protocol was designed for teletype machines, which don’t have lower case letters at all. In order to make the switch—initially proposed in the 1990s—the computer systems used to predict weather patterns had to be reformatted and the old machines phased out.
But all-caps transmissions won’t be gone for good. “Upper case letters in forecasts will not become obsolete – forecasters will have the option to use all capital letters in weather warnings to emphasize threats during extremely dangerous situations,” according to NOAA.