The boss key is something I remember from all the old MicroProse games, a key you could hit in a pinch that would throw up a fake spreadsheet. It was the go-to key so you could keep playing games at work without your boss or supervisors being any wiser.
It fell out of favour for obvious reasons, but the most unlikely source has brought it back for 2015: Cricket Australia.
Today marks the start of the Test cricket season in Australia once again. I accept that many of you will not care about this. This is irrelevant for now, but play along for a second.
Let’s say you’re working in an office and you want to keep a track of the score. This is traditionally what you’d have up on your screen:
It’s not particularly subtle, and the Cricinfo tracker isn’t much better either if you’re trying to keep a low profile.
You could fire up Cricket Australia’s radio stream, but not everyone is in the position where they can have an audio feed playing over the course of their work day. But what if you want to keep in touch with the score?
That’s where Cricket Australia has brought back the boss key — or at least the idea of it. They’ve rigged up a separate scorecard that looks, from a distance, like an ordinary, average spreadsheet. There’s no colour or nothing particularly flashy. It’s just rolling black-on-white text, with a simple comment and the traditional notation system that cricket tragics are fully familiar with.
Nondescript would be the best way to describe it. It’s a modern boss key, something supervisors would only be immediately familiar with if they looked up close.
For reference, here’s what the old-school boss key spreadsheets used to look like.
Image courtesy of Mobygames
Boss keys vary, of course, so the above isn’t indicative of everything developers came up with. But it’s interesting to see what things were like, and Cricket Australia’s little trick today is perhaps the closest we’ve come to bringing the boss key back.