History Of Keyboards - GoTechTalk


Sunday, December 23, 2018

History Of Keyboards

History Of Keyboards

Inventor Christopher Latham Sholes didn't know it but his typewriter the first with a modern layout would end up being the forerunner to one of the most popular communication tools of the 21st century, because even though in 1874 typing device that assigns one letter to each key wasn't exactly the most brilliant idea in history, Scholz's typewriter was notable for introducing the now ubiquitous QWERTY layout which was effective supposedly because it kept letters that were commonly used together away from each other to prevent the mechanical arms of the typewriter from hitting each other and causing jams, of course E and R are placed together in lots of words and in fact the original design had a period where the R key is today but whatever the reason for this qwerty typewriters became very popular and this keyboard layout remained the standard for the teleprinters that became widespread in the early 20th century. 

So it wasn't surprising then that when actual computers like the 30-ton ENIAC started popping onto the scene in the 1940s these same teleprinters often ended up getting used for data input with that same QWERTY layout setting the stage for the now-familiar keyboard layout to be integrated into later machines that weighed less than an entire family of elephants. 

In the 1960s video terminals started becoming popular and these typically included keyboards that allowed users to more quickly and easily manipulate data on a screen instead of using cards or paper tape like those earlier teleprinters that were adapted for use of computers, although these terminals looked like full-fledged computers they were usually just a monitor and keyboard combo that had to be plugged into a larger size system, however since it was much easier to type then operate a computer by flipping a bunch of switches on the front or whatever most computers featured keyboards of some fashion by the early 1980s and we even started seeing some of the first ergonomic keyboards in the late 70s with companies like Maltron seriously thinking about the users comfort in a way that led to some very interesting designs and it was a period of great innovation under the hood too. 

Many early keyboards used key switches that were pretty different from what you're probably typing on right now including ultrasonic switches that actually listened to the different vibration each key would make as it was pressed and this one was a bit more common once that used magnets that got close to a pair of metal pieces causing them to come into contact with each other whenever the key was pushed down these were called reed switches and while this concept is actually still in use today in applications like switching off a laptop when you close the lid they proved to be too fragile and inaccurate for keyboards, so a couple of alternative designs quickly replaced reed switches one was the familiar membrane which works by placing a metal layer under each key that directly contacts traces on the keyboard circuit board when a key is pressed down this design is both inexpensive and resistant to debris making it very common on cheaper keyboards today. 

Another was a technology that IBM patented in 1978 a spring loaded key switch called a buckling spring these also worked by direct contact in that pressing down caused two pieces of metal to touch but they proved to be not only extremely durable but also a pleasure to type on and subjectively listened too, so while not the first mechanical switch buckling spring switch has gained enormous popularity thanks to their inclusion on the model s keyboard that came with the original IBM PC in 1980 and later the model M which is still beloved by keyboard enthusiasts today for its high build quality and trademark springy sound and not to be outdone in the mechanical switch arms race German manufacturer Cherry started gaining notoriety in the midnight after their switches came installed on some keyboards for the Commodore Amiga and proved to be of better quality than a lot of the alternatives, of course noisy heavy mechanical switches aren't always the best solution which I'm sure you the viewer can attest to if you've ever had a roommate typing away on their cherry blue keyboard while you're trying to sleep. 

So rubber dome keyboards were developed around the same time these gave the user tactile feedback due to the rubber dome snapping like a suction cup but they were cheaper and quieter than their spring-loaded counterparts rubber domes have become common on chiclet-style keyboards as well as on laptops in the form of the lower profile scissor-switch variant which helps to save space this trend towards light cheap keyboards drove much of the evolution of the keyboard for the next decade or two with IBM having the brilliant idea to cut costs by putting stick-on letters on keycaps in 1985 rather than having a different manufacturing process for every key. 

So fast-forward to today and basic keyboards are lightweight commodity items that can be easily found for less than 10 bucks but there's also an enormous variety of other options out there at all price points whether you want something tricked-out with individual RGB backlighting and macro keys for gaming or productivity a model with optical switches for fast response times a trick we actually first saw in the early 1980s or even a keyboard with no keys at all. 

Alright, guys, that's the end of the blog, thanks for reading the whole way through if you enjoyed this blog please share it with someone who would be interested and leave a comment, Thanks for reading guys.

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