Modern Computer Keyboard Switching Technologies
Although all the keyboards look the same outside, they may be completely different inside. It is crucial that the keyboard has nice ergonomics, but it is no less crucial what is inside the unit, as comfort depends on tactile feelings, whereas reliability depends on switching technology.
Nowadays there are several types of switching technologies that are used inside desktop PC keyboards:
- Mechanical switch – each key features its own switching mechanism that is soldered to a print-circuit board. Thanks to high-quality individual mechanisms, this type provides exceptional tactile feedback and excellent depression of keys, however, the amount of switches per key may be limited.
- Dome switch keyboard – the keys, when pressed, lower the dome that connects two circuit traces located underneath usually on a flexible piece of plastics. The “domes” are located on a special rubber base which provides tactile feedback and depresses the keys.
- Buckling-spring switch – a switch technology that takes advantage of both mechanical and dome switch technologies. When keys are pressed, a special level switches circuit traces, but unlike in case of dome switch tech, a special spring mechanism provides tactile feedback and depresses the keys.
There are also other types of keyboard switching technologies, including scissor-switch and capacitive keyboards.
Nowadays the vast majority of desktop keyboards use dome switch technology, which makes it possible to keep them rather affordable and reliable against spills. By contrast, rather complex keyboards with mechanical switches are more vulnerable against liquid, crums, dust or physical hits.
But despite of price advantages and potentially higher reliability many believe that dome switch keyboards do not provide excellent tactile feedback and that mechanical and buckling-spring keyboards are much more preferable. While in general it is clear that mechanical switch should provide the best tactile feedback, many of higher-class dome switch keyboards do provide pleasant enough tactile feedback to be chosen by typists.
We will share our experience about working on keyboards with different types of switching technology later in this article, but before, it is time to explain why tactile feedback is important for typists.