Technological Innovation In Typing: Have We Taken A Step Back?

By Mohammed H. Rahman

Computers have been progressing exponentially over the past decades. However, I think that people are settling with the keyboards that they get by default, mainly because they are either too young to remember what better keyboards felt like, or they didn’t realize the significance and the imperativeness of a good, quality made keyboard. Nowadays, the keyboards that are most popular are the keyboard that is mounted on your laptop, and linear, rubber dome switches. However, I really think we should revert back to what, in my opinion, is the superior to all keyboards: mechanical keyboards.

Mechanical keyboards are computer keyboards that have a switch underneath the keycaps, which gives a tactile feeling to the user letting them know they have successfully pressed a key.

Picture of Mechanical Switch

Standard mechanical keyboards are made up of an outer plastic board that hold everything together, a circuit board that contains signals to communicate to the computer, and tactile switches you can push that are usually soldered directly into the circuit board. The way a key tells the computer to print out a letter, number, symbol, etc. onto the screen deals with the switch. The switch is connected to the circuit board, and when pressed down to a certain point, a pin connects to the circuit board and sends a message to the computer telling it to print out the key you pressed1 (Judd, 2012, paragraph 3).

Keyboards that come on laptops and rubber dome keyboards that you get by default when buying computers have a different switch from mechanical keyboards. These keyboards have a more flat feeling to them, with no clarification of activation. Rubber domes usually just include a sheet of plastic, with a membrane contact sheet below the dome to provide electrical switching2 (Tyson and Wilson, 2000, p.5). This means that you have to bottom out or press all the way down on a key to make sure you actually pressed the key. In terms of progressing in technology, it seems inefficient to have to make sure you press all the way down, just to have to then check the computer to see what you pressed, versus having a mechanical keyboard where you can type quickly knowing you pressed the keys.

Some might think: Who cares about the switch? Well, why someone would prefer a mechanical keyboard over a compact rubber dome keyboard stems from two reasons: comfort and speed. With regards to comfort, mechanical keyboards win over laptop and rubber dome keyboards any day. Mechanical keyboards have switches that feel good to the fingers, because they give you the satisfaction of pushing something that gives a little response back, letting you know you have successfully activated the switch. You can even change how hard or how light the switch you are pressing is, depending on your preference. The comfort provides relaxation in the fingers, especially for those who are on the computer for a long time, which increases overall productivity.

Here is a table with the most common mechanical switches, and their actuation force.

Chery MX Mechanical Keyboard Switches3
Switch Name Switch Feel Actuation Force(In grams)
Cherry MX Blue Clicky 50g
Cherry MX Green Clicky 70g
Cherry MX Brown Slight Tactile Bump 40g
Cherry MX Clear Tactile Bump 65g
Cherry MX Red Linear 45g
Cherry MX Black Linear 60g

Rubber dome keyboards, on the contrary, are flat and require bottoming out the key or mashing the key to make sure you pressed the key. Below is a table of the types of rubber dome keyboards.

Rubber Dome Keyboard Switches4
Variety Name Description
Classic Rubber Dome Slider moulded into the keycap, pushes down on the dome(most common variety)
Scissors Stabilizes low travel switches that lack a shaft for the keycap to slide inside
Dome With Slider Each key position has a slider that presses on the dome, which the keycap is mounted

In terms of speed, statistically speaking, people get faster words per minute using mechanical keyboards. Some of the top typists in the world with average words per minute5 ranging from 160-212 wpm(words per minute) use mechanical keyboards(Das Keyboard’s List of Top 5, 2013).

Although keyboards seem trivial and miniscule to the technology boom that has been in the works in the modern era, they are still part of our everyday lives. Keyboards can be found in phones, computers, and even cars with navigation. However, when using stationary computers or laptops, mechanical keyboards are just the way to go. It makes the most sense to use them over conventional laptop or rubber dome keyboards, because they provide comfort, higher speeds, and an increase in efficiency and productivity when it comes to work. So next time you’re typing, think about how much more work you can get done, while still enjoying typing with a mechanical keyboard.

Works Cited