back to article The return of the turbo button: New Intel hotness causes an old friend to reappear

Do you remember the days before desktop processors needed heatsinks? Are you wearied by the constant churn of new computer tech that never seems to make things easier? Intel has good news for you: it's bringing back an old friend: the turbo button. Better still, you won't need any new hardware, because it's repurposing …

  1. JassMan Silver badge

    I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

    But OTOH my Ryzen 9 seems to have an automatic throttle for which you can choose different rules. Unfortunately my lappy's keyboard has so few keys, that not only does it lack Scroll Lock, it doesn't even have Page Up & Page Down or even Insert. Home, End and Pause are also missing.

    I spent several hours messing with xmodmap to put the extra keys back (in place of the functions I never use) trying to make it survive more than 5 minutes. It was only once I started reading the code for the HID drivers that I noticed that all of sudden, my first attempt had working again. Touch wood [taps head] it is still working.

    The only key I don't seem to be able to over-ride is Fn+RightCTL which insists on being ContextMenu instead of my usual placing for Compose. Luckily, the ROG button does seem to remember that I xmodkeyyed it to be Compose instead even though I find it "unnatural".

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

      "Unfortunately my lappy's keyboard has so few keys, that not only does it lack Scroll Lock, it doesn't even have Page Up & Page Down or even Insert. Home, End and Pause are also missing."

      Which make/model? Every one I've ever had, used and had in for repair has all those keys, often as secondary functions on other key accessed with the Fn "shift" key if there's no dedicated keys. Or is it more of a Chromebook or tablet-like rather then a general purpose laptop?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

        Indeed, on my Dell laptop it is hidden in plain sight as Fn+F6, symbolised by a padlock with a vertical double-headed arrow.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

        I've got an Asus S4300FN, and it definitely lacks Scroll Lock and Pause.

        Page up/Page down/Home/End are reachable with Fn.

        Oh, and the reason they removed Scroll Lock, it's to use the top right key for the power button, the one that used to be Delete (now on its left), instead of having a dedicated one.

        This caused me grief a first, since my fingers were used tapping there for Delete. Lucky that Windows and Mint have an option to disable it.

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Re: I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

        It is FN+K on my Lenovo, obviously...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

          FWIW, that's a half decent mnemonic. K for locK, so long as you use it often enough to remember it :-)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

          Hey, thanks you! I just posted above that my Asus doesn't have them. Well, in fact, it's <Fn>+K, and <Fn>+P for Pause, logically.

          They just didn't bother to print anything on those keys (I can only shudder at the cost it would have added to the laptop).

          Of course, since there's no Scroll Lock LED present, I connected an external keyboard to give it a try. It dutifully lighted up there.

      4. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

        My work HP laptop does actually have a real Scroll Lock key, abit a half sized one like all of the F keys. Weirdly Tthe keys it does have are: Scroll Lock, Pause, Insert and Delete, while pressing them in conjunction with the Fn key gives Num Lock, Break, Print Screen and the mysterious "sys rq", which is one I don't even have on my full sized keyboard. (Pressing it in Windows brings up the snipping tool)

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key

      why don't we turn off DRM instead, and just leave the scroll lock key as-is ???

  2. sreynolds Silver badge

    Will it work?

    Given Intel's track record of late of adding stuff then disabling it in the firmware later, such as TSX, I don't hold much hope of it working. I mean if it unintentionally cooked your processor melting gates and the like, that would be more like Intel of late.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kids!

    “… that weren't designed for 33 screaming megahertz of raw 486 power”.

    Children these days! My *286* had a turbo button for things that couldn’t handle 12 megahertz!!!

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Kids!

      Bah! My PC XT clone had a turbo button for software that couldn't handle an 8088 processor running at 8 MHz!

      Fuck, I'm old.

      1. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Kids!

        almost twice the speed it should be!

        4.77MHz for the win.....

      2. NorthIowan

        Re: Kids!

        Bah!! I maybe older.

        My first pre IBM invented small computers was an RCA 1802 based COSMIC ELF running 3.579545 MHz. It could have run 6.4 MHz but by using the color burst frequency you could drive a regular TV from the "graphics co-processor" chip. Really a DMA driver chip that with the processors help could clock out bits and sync pulses.

        All this worked with 4 K of RAM and about 2 K of EEPROM. I soldered all the chips onto the two boards. Only missed a couple of pins on the first go. ;-)

        Speed was not that blazing as it used 32 clock cycles per instruction.

        No shift lock key, It had a HEX keypad with a few other buttons. I wonder if the tiny basic cassette I never used is still readable...

        1. General Purpose Silver badge

          Re: Kids!

          Bah! I had to slow down the magnetic card reader on my TI-59 by lightly gripping the edges of the cards. Older cards couldn't be read reliably at full speed.

          I can't tell you how many hertz the processor ran at, but it must have been quite a few.

      3. _andrew

        Re: Kids!

        My first Arm system (an Archimedes) ran at both 4MHz _and_ 8MHz at the same time (well, 8MHz for memory ticks inside a DRAM "row", 4MHz when opening a new row. Well, it was all "Fast Page Mode" and rows were only four words wide, but that's the theory.) The PC Emulator software felt about the same as a classic 4.77MHz XT, which must have been some feat of tight coding. Used that emulator and a character-mode PC word processor to write my undergrad thesis...

        Thinking about how fast it seemed at the time, and how slow I know that it was, modern terms, really puts software bloat into awful, stark relief...

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: Kids!

          I went Amiga, but with similar results.

          At work, I was using an AT clone (HP Vectra) / and a Mac Plus. With the Amiga, I could emulate both and use the Amiga to swap data between the two systems more quickly than the AppleTalk cable hanging out the back of the PC...

        2. Dave 15

          Re: Kids!

          It is sad that windows manages to make all of the computer power and space of today into something slower than my old Opus pc 5. I actually did try it at one time, putting the old machine on and typing win to get windows and opening word was quicker than the then most up to date Windows box several dozens of generations and versions later

      4. bazza Silver badge

        Re: Kids!

        Also I'm wondering what the article's author is going on about. Grey hair? I'd warrant that most of us (including myself) who remember having a turbo button on a 286 look back with fondness to the days of having grey hair.

        Still, at least we now no longer need to trouble the services of a barber shop, and can get the old bonce polished for an extra shilling whilst we're at the shoe shine stand.

      5. Aitor 1

        Re: Kids!

        Same here.. and q frigging MFM 29 megabytes hdd. A hard drive!!

      6. EricB123 Bronze badge

        NEC V20!

        When I pushed the turbo button my my NEC V20 I could hum along at 2.7 Norton SI's!

    2. Dave 15

      Re: Kids!

      Opus pc 5 had a turbo button, definitely made a difference. I also upgraded it to 640k of memory, all it would take. Its massive 32mb drive had a couple of assemblers compilers windows 3 and sidekick as well as code for 6 or so projects.

  4. Jon 37

    Can you just turn it off?

    Is there a way to just disable the slow "E" corrs permanently, and just use the fast P cores?

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Can you just turn it off?

      From the sound of it, if there wasn't before, you can enable this feature and keep it enabled, so there is now. However, I must ask why you would buy a processor with extra cores only to disable them. Unless the OS really can't put processes on the right cores, the extra ones can't hurt. Linux has been handling ARM's big/little for years, Windows on ARM has had some experience, and Intel has been testing these probably with OS devs' assistance, so I wouldn't expect that to be a problem.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Can you just turn it off?

      > Is there a way to just disable the slow "E" corrs permanently, and just use the fast P cores?

      On some youtube reviews of Alder Lake I've seen BIOS screenshots that have an option along the lines of:

      "Enable AVX-512 (NOTE: this disables the E-cores)"

      So assuming that's not some sort of dev/beta BIOS, then enabling AVX-512 will apparently disable the E-cores.

      Of course, unless you specifically wanted AVX-512 anyway, you'd be better off buying a Ryzen if you are going to go and disable E-cores.

      1. sreynolds Silver badge

        Re: Can you just turn it off?

        You are probably better off going with AMD full stop.

  5. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Wow...

    " I would lucky b**tard to anyone who has a Scroll Lock key "

    You're right! I have what I thought was a full keyboard, including a number pad, on my Inspiron 3505 -- but now that you mention it, it doesn't even look like scroll lock's available using "fn-some other key"!

    Wow... games really check if you have a specific style of CPU and refuse to run? Gross. I would expect them to check for available instructions (if it needs something that older CPUs don't have so you don't get partway through game load THEN have it crash), and AT THE MOST run a microbenchmark and print a warning that your system may be too slow if the microbenchmark says it's probably too slow. I would NOT check based on (in this case) "Atom"... I mean, I couldn't forsee some CPU using Atom cores as low-power cores in a faster CPU, but COULD forsee faster Atoms coming out in the future which would have been fast enough to run the game.

    1. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Wow...

      I've read elsewhere that it's not that the E cores are too slow, it's that they're there at all, the DRM sees the other CPUs as a different system, so assumes that 2 PCs are playing the same game and force quits it.

      DRM eh... keeping customers satisfied since 1987.

      1. cyberdemon Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Wow...

        My response would to be to return the game to the developer (with a suitably angry rant about their shitty broken pointless and counterproductive DRM scheme) and demand a full refund. I don't know why Intel are pandering to the purveyors of crap-and-broken DRM with this.

        I understand that it is mostly legacy titles affected, but still, I think game devs should be forced to remove or at least fix the DRM, or hand out refunds.

        1. John Savard

          Re: Wow...

          Intel is doing this to satisfy less assertive customers who know they can ask for a refund until they're blue in the face, but they won't get one.

          1. cyberdemon Silver badge
            Mushroom

            Re: Wow...

            Or possibly to satisfy lazy game developers who would prefer to sue intel for "breaking" their game than fix their DRM.

    2. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Wow...

      As @FIA said, it's not the game it's the DRM/anti-cheat that's stopping the game running. In addition to DRM issues, the anti-cheat gets confused, it doesn't understand whats going on therefore assumes you are doing the dodgy and running in a VM or similar to hide cheating software.

  6. brainwrong

    Lights

    All that my turbo button did was change which combination of segments were lit on a pair of 7 segment LED displays on the front panel.

    Was I short-changed?

  7. FILE_ID.DIZ

    I use the Scroll Lock at least weekly....

    CTRL-Scroll Lock is a convenient way to get the ping statistics from the Windows's command ping without having to cancel it and restart.

    The second use is as a prank with Excel. When Scroll Lock is on, the arrow keys move the sheet and not the active cell.

    1. Dave K

      Re: I use the Scroll Lock at least weekly....

      It's also commonly used for keyboards connected to a KVM. I use my scroll-lock key regularly. Two taps on scroll-lock, then number 1-4 to switch the KVM to the required computer I wish to control.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: I use the Scroll Lock at least weekly....

        That, at least, should still work since the keyboard is plugged into the KVM, not the PC so the KVM can still intercept the key presses :-)

        1. dajames Silver badge

          Re: I use the Scroll Lock at least weekly....

          ... the keyboard is plugged into the KVM, not the PC so the KVM can still intercept the key presses ...

          If it's anything like my KVM switch the Scroll Lock key presses are passed through. As it takes two presses of Scroll Lock to invoke the KVM switch the PS's Scorll Lock function is toggles on and off again (or off and on again) so no harm is normally done.

          It's not clear whether this new 'turbo' function is a toggle or not, so I don't know whether intel have broken things (as usual) ...

    2. Unicornpiss

      Re: I use the Scroll Lock at least weekly....

      Scroll Lock: Also useful in some versions of VNC to allow you to send the Windows key and other functions to the remote session you're working with.

    3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: I use the Scroll Lock at least weekly....

      "The second use is as a prank with Excel. When Scroll Lock is on, the arrow keys move the sheet and not the active cell."

      I pranked myself this way just last week. This particular laptop keyboard lacks a Scroll Lock key, so in the interests of science I spent quite a few minutes trying to figure out what key combination had done the mischief. On some keyboards Fn+F14 is Scroll Lock, but the keyboard only goes up to 12. In the end I broke down and used the virtual keyboard.

    4. rajivdx

      Re: I use the Scroll Lock at least weekly....

      Cool! I didn't realize Ping could do that. It seems ping treats ^C and Ctrl-Scroll Lock differently, the former breaks the latter continues.

      The second use that you found in Excel is the *actual* function and reason for existence of scroll lock - hence the name. Excel is one of the last apps to still use Scroll lock this way.

    5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: I use the Scroll Lock at least weekly....

      Finances lady enabled scroll lock by accident. Took me a bit of cultivating the open patches on my noggin before I recalled that it was most probably a scroll lock key.

      FWIW the same thing happened in SuperCalc 5, so it seems to be a relic from the past.

      I miss the days of SuperCalc 5 (and Lotus 1-2-3) as muscle memory gave you a speed advantage.

      TBH I found that the DOS versions of some programs definitely have a speed advantage over their Windows counterparts, as you could use muscle memory for frequently-used commands.

  8. steamnut

    Useless idea

    In the days when PC's has "turbo" buttons they were always left pressed. When offered more power who wouldn't want to use it?

    I supplied PC's back then and, after a while, I jumpered the feature permanently on after one customer complained of the PC "going slow. The user had pressed the "turbo" button thinking that it would go faster and forgot to press it again. I drove 15 miles to find that out!

    1. John Miles

      Re: Useless idea

      For a few games I played back then the turbo button allowed them to be playable - but I don't recall encountering any other software where it helped, though I am sure there were some

  9. Blackjack Silver badge

    Alley Cat actually sets up their own cpu speed so no turbo button needed.

  10. Bob Dunlop

    Comment from some old code

    Increasing a delay loop counter by a factor of 20.

    /* Always wait a long time 3.04 */

    /* Native 386 code is very fast */

    /* One fifth of a second at 12Mhz */

    /* no waits with a test in the loop */

    /* COMPAQ386 just rewrote the rules */

    /* R.J.D 21 Oct 86 */

    Have to say that being able to go straight to this comment after 35 years says something about how much this leap meant to me.

  11. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    Press any key to continue

    What happens if a game requires use of the Scroll Lock key? Did Intel think of that? They should at least offer a choice of key, in case the user finds the Scroll Lock key more indispensable than, say, the Q key.

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Had an IBM PC AT compatible, ctrl+alt++ key enabled turbo, and ctrl+alt+- disabled turbo.

    Was so long ago that it is all but forgotten.

    1. rajivdx

      Yes, I remember that. It would correctly set the Turbo LED, but PC-Cases with the 7 segment display would still show the incorrect speed as they were hardcoded to the turbo button.

  13. Binraider Silver badge

    Hands up for the number of times you’ve had to close a ticket along the lines of ‘excel won’t scroll properly’. Often, because scroll lock was on.

    Can’t think of any other applications that use it?

  14. Ali Dodd

    8088

    I had an XT clone which I think had an 8088 chip back in the day that ran at 4.77mhz (as expected) and then if you held down the period key on boot it would power up in the nippier 6.22mhz... very weird, it certainly seemed to run faster when enabled

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm jealous of you Scroll Lock-enabled keyboards owners who are showing off all the cool things you can do with it!

  16. aldolo

    scroll lock in use. dont mess it up please

    used as keepalive to stop lock screen. please leave it alone

  17. Brad16800

    I miss alley cat. Oh and that one where you had to catch the babies falling out of a building and bounce then to safety, can't recall the name.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      We all know you can remember the name.

      Made my mind go to the Frank Sidebottom (RIP) track that shares some words

      I Can't Get "Bouncing Babies" By The Teardrop Explodes

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