The Computer Keyboard
Everywhere around us here in the general Nashua NH area there are countless thousands of users sitting at their computer keyboards, typing away at email, spreadsheets, documents and more. We've all been using keyboards for so many years that we scarcely give a moment's thought to their evolution and functionality. That is, not until one breaks and we require keyboard repair. Let's take a few minutes to visit with the humble keyboard and track its evolution through time.
Computer keyboards are input devices which are used to enter functions and characters into the computer system. The users completes this action by pressing buttons or keys on the keyboard. Basically, the keyboard is the primary device for inputting text. It connects to the PC via cables or a wireless connection in some cases. Most computer keyboards follow the standard layout format of having keys for individual letters, numbers and special characters, and most also have keys for specific functions.
As said, most of these keyboards have a similar layout, they contain keys for individual letters, numbers and special characters which are often called character keys. The most popular layout of a standard keyboard used in the English language is named QWERTY. QWERTY stands for the sequence of the first six letters on the top left of the keyboard. Read on to learn more about how the idea of keyboards come to life, as well as the development.
History and Inventions Leading to the Computer Keyboard
We can thank Mr. Christopher Latham Sholes, who invented the first typewriter the world has seen, back in 1868 - and these were mass marketed in 1877 by the Remington Company. The invention of the modern keyboard we have in computing today is a direct result of that typewriter. So, thank you Christopher!
Even thought the typewriter was the original idea which sparked many inventions afterwards, there were quite a few other invention in between which came before the keyboard we know and use today.
First off, the teletype machine. introduced in the 1930s, it combined the technology of the typewriter alongside with the technology of the telegraph. In other places, punched card systems were also combined withe the typewriters in order to develop what was first called keypunches, which IBM used to sell very well in 1931.
Finally, the early keyboards in computing were adapted from the punch card and teletype technologies. Eniac computer systems used a punched card reader as its input and output device in 1946, and in 1948 the Binac systems used electromechanically controlled typewriters in order to input data directly on to the magnetic tape and to print results as well. The use of the emerging electric typewriter did its part very well, when it comes to merging the typewriter and computer systems together.
Because the early computer keyboards have been based either on teletype machines or keypunches, transmitting data between the keyboard and the system used to run much more slowly than what we are used to today. This happened because there were many electromechanical steps which need to be taken while transmitting the data. This is where VDT technology came in and along with electric keyboards, electronic impulses were used to send data directly to the computer, thus saving time.
By the early 80s, almost all computer systems used electronic keyboards and VDTs, although it is important to remember that the layout of the computer keyboard owes its origin to the original inventor of the typewriter.
Different types of Computer Keyboards
There are dozens of computer keyboard types available today, some are widely used while some have become completely obsolete. Lets talk about the most common types and the mostly used computer keyboards we have today. Check out the list below.
Describing a keyboard as "standard" meant something different 20 years ago, however, not much has really changed, the standard keyboard is still.. Pretty standard. The regular keyboard has, on average, about 105 keys with some exceptions of older keyboards with 95 to 103 keys. Standard keyboards also differ on key placement, not all keys are found in the same slots as they are with other standard keyboards. This is of course only a slight variation.
QWERTY keyboards are the most commonly used keyboards and they have the sex alphabets (Q, W ,E ,R ,T, Y) in the first row. The AZERTY keyboards, on the other hand, have these letters replaced with A, Z, E, R, T and Y keys in the first row. These are primarily used in French countries. Other types include QWERTZ and Dvorak keyboards.
The invention of ergonomic keyboards refers to the study of different methods and techniques used to reduce stress on muscles in order to avoid repetitive strain injury. This mostly deals with optimizing one's posture while working. The idea is for the work to be performed in the easiest manner possible and with less muscle or joint strain.
The design of ergonomic keyboards works well for fingers and the wrist as well, in fact, the idea behind this type of keyboard is to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The CTS caused users to experience numbness and tingling sensations in the hands and fingers as a result of typing for a long time.
Wireless keyboards don't required wired connection, as the name suggests. It connects to the computer via three different and basic types of connections. These include Bluetooth, Infrared (IR) and Radio Frequency to connect to the computer system.
Each of the types need of course, an external power source in order to function. Most common models, this power comes from either using two or 'AA' or 'AAA' batteries. Some models contain an included battery, which is chargeable of course, with the help of a USB connection cable. All of the three types use a transceiver. The transceiver connects to a port on the computer system and maintains contact between the systems and the wireless keyboard.
Most people prefer the Bluetooth connection. Why? Well because it's Bluetooth. Bluetooth keyboards have a range of 30 feet (about 9 meters) and are also often compatible with some other devices provided these also use of course, Bluetooth technology.
These keyboards are commonly slim and are usually missing the numeric keypad which is normally found on the right side of keyboards. Compact keyboards are mostly used with laptops, where sizing issues make it difficult to provide standard keyboards for laptop users. That's why these keyboards use keys with multiple functions instead of having just one, like they normally do on standard keyboards for computer systems.
The reason this type is called Internet keyboards is that these have specific keys specially manufactured for Internet usage. These keys are called hot keys, and they perform functions which are related to common Internet needs. Typically, an Internet keyboard will feature keys with functions such as the back and forward function, in Internet browsers, a key for the bookmarks list, e-mail inbox, search engines, online shopping keys and so on.
Of course, many standard keyboards have already adopted the concept of an Internet keyboard, since most work requires the use of the Internet.
The gaming keyboards are being designed specifically for gamers, and often by gamers. These will include special features which are meant to enhance the gaming experience and also provide convenient usage for the gamers. Some of most common features are volume control, key lightning, programmable and interchangeable keys, and even touch screens and in-built joysticks.
These keyboards can be found in many different shapes and sizes, from round ones to v-shaped keyboards. Mainly, the different sizes and shapes are used as a marketing gimmick in order to attract gamers.
However, there are many keyboards which are designed for only specific types of game. First-person shooter games for example, required repetitive pressing of the direction keys, so with gaming keyboards, these keys need to be placed in a way that pressing them so often won't cause stress to the wrist and the player's fingers.