To move up and down or across a webpage, you need to “scroll.” It may sound like a computer word, but there was scrolling long before there were computers. In fact, it is an activity that is thousands of years old. A scroll, from which “scrolling” comes, is the oldest way of recording information on soft material, such as papyrus or paper, and it was used by most ancient civilizations in the world before the Romans invented the book, or codex, as they called it.
With a book, you can open any page you want without having to go through all the information that comes before. This means that information can be organized more efficiently and accessed more easily.
With a scroll, however, you basically have one very long page that is rolled up. So, to access any piece of information, you need to unroll the scroll from the beginning. You unroll it from one side to the other, or from top to bottom, just as you scroll up and down a webpage, or scroll from side to side.
The invention of the book was one of the most important developments for the spread of information in history, and it inevitably led to the death of the scroll.
However, computers and the World Wide Web have led to an even broader and deeper revolution in the spread of information, and in a way they have brought the scroll back, in digital and more flexible form. Not quite dead after all.
And that’s why we scroll.