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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide ]

Keyboards

Keyboards are one of those components that most PC users typically take for granted. This is certainly understandable. For starters, keyboards have no impact on the performance of the PC, which immediately diminishes their importance. They are present on almost every PC ever sold, and usually just "come with" the rest of the hardware. They perform a specific task and for a lot of people, any keyboard will do the job. It’s not like the average PC buyer will select a PC system on the basis of its keyboard! Pretty boring stuff, seemingly.

This can be deceiving, however. Despite the higher profile given to alternative input devices in recent years, the lowly keyboard is still the primary input mechanism for the PC. It is a one-dimensional input device, allowing you to enter text and execute commands on your system. However, even in this day of graphical user interfaces and Internet use, the keyboard has a very important role to play.

The main reason for the keyboard’s importance is that it is one of the most critical ergonomic components in the PC. The design and construction of the keyboard affects the comfort and usability of the PC, especially if you do a lot of typing. (And many people do more typing than they used to--the Internet means more mouse-based graphical browsing, but also email, discussion forums and other text-based activities.) Poor keyboard design and use habits can even lead to health issues in some people: repetitive stress injuries.

Keyboards are probably the most standardized components in the PC, in terms of operation and interface. You can switch most keyboards between PCs and still have them work. This does not, however, mean that all keyboards are the same--far from it. In fact, the interchangeability of most keyboards means you have a wealth of options open to you. This freedom to easily change keyboards means you can readily benefit from understanding the differences between different types.

In this section of the Reference Guide, I will describe the PC keyboard in comprehensive detail. This includes a full discussion of the construction and operation of each part of the keyboard, a description of the different key groupings, and coverage of common keyboard features and accessories. I also describe the different keyboard layouts often seen used with PCs. Finally, I discuss important software issues related to keyboards.

Next: Keyboard Construction and Operation


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