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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Keyboards | Keyboard Construction and Operation ]


The main job of the keyboard is of course to translate motion of the fingers into text-based commands sent to the PC. In order to perform this task, the keyboard must have a way of detecting when keys are pressed. This detection is done through the use of small devices called keyswitches. One is used for each key on the keyboard. When you press down on the keycap of a key, it pushes the keyswitch down, causing the keyboard to register the keypress. A switch, of course, is something that can be turned on or off; they come in all different shapes and sizes, and they are used everywhere in our lives. Despite their differences they all perform the same basic way: changing a flow of electricity in response to a stimulus.

In keyboards, keyswitches must be designed to meet certain attributes to ensure that they can be used reliably and comfortably over a long period of time. After all, you may press some of the keys in your keyboard millions of times! Over the years, many different technologies have been used in building the keyswitches used in PC keyboards. Differences between these technology types have a very important impact on the attributes of the keyboard, especially its durability, cost and "feel". You can often immediately tell the difference between keyboards using different keyswitch technologies just by using them for a few seconds.

In this section I will first discuss some of the most important attributes that both influence keyswitch design, and are influenced by it. I will then take a look at each of the major keyswitch types used in various PC keyboard implementations.

Next: Keyswitch Design Attributes

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