It’s weird to think that, for something we use daily, very few people understand how computer keyboards work. Most people first wonder how computers work but they don’t even realize that their own keyboard is a computer of its own! Here’s how computer keyboards work, explained as simple as possible.
Inside your keyboard
If you’ve ever pulled off a key from your keyboard you have a rough idea how the key itself works. The key is connected to a hole inside the base. Every time you tap it, the key makes contact with the base. Finally the key is connected to a little piece of rubber that makes it go up again. Although this sounds like a very simple process, these few options vary wildly. Everything is designed to have the perfect feel, response, bounce and even sound!
But, what do the keys make contact with every time they’re pressed? They make contact with the key matrix. The key matrix is a circuit board with a tiny electrical current.
The keys however aren’t in direct contact with the key circuit. The latter is protected by a membrane layer in between the matrix and the keys. Under it you’ll find an insulating layer. When you press a key, you push the first membrane past the insulating layer onto the key matrix. When you press a key, the circuit gets closed and it sends a signal of which key just got pressed. This is true in every keyboard except the capacitive ones, where the opposite happens.
To gather all of this information and translate it into data, every keyboard has its own tiny computer, a microprocessor that receives the information on the closed circuits and compares it to the location on the character map in its memory. This gives the information to the computer of which key you just pressed.
Explain me like I’m five
For a simple explanation, every key is like a light switch. If you see a light turning on and off and you know where the light switch is, you’ll know which switch is being used.
The keyboard is like 50 lights in a warehouse and the microprocessor in it knows which switch belongs to which light bulb. When it sees one turn on, it knows which “switch” you just pressed and it tells that information to your computer.
How can I make sure my keyboard lasts longer?
As we’ve seen, a lot of parts from your keyboard will get worn out sooner or later. From the membrane inside your keyboard to the print on the keys, they’ll slowly age until they can no longer be used like before. In fact, keyboards in laptops are even flimsier! They’re designed for slight use and portability, not for long periods of You may have already noticed some wear on your spacebar right now!
If you write a lot on your laptop, make sure to use the keyboard attached to it as least as possible! However, carrying a full cheap USB keyboard around may defeat the purpose of portability. That’s why we love our Voamoko keyboard! Once it’s folded it’ll fit anywhere and the attached mouse pad will protect your laptop’s mouse pad as well!
Check it out here.