Now that we are spending more and more time in front of our keyboards, the more comfortable you are, the better your experience will be. The more pleasant the time spent, the better the standard of work will be, and the more productive you will become. All of this is easy to conclude, of course, but how do you make your typing experience as wonderful as possible?
The answer lies in your own fingertips!
Your Fingers do the work.
The point of contact between you and the keyboard work that you are doing, or the global internet as a whole, are your fingertips. These incredibly sensitive body parts are actually pressing the keys on your keyboard, so if you are trying to find a better typing experience, then start here. There are more choices than you would think about what to use, so start thinking about what makes you more comfortable. Because the act of typing is so automatic to us, we don’t generally think about what can change in the micro-second between you pressing a key, and the symbol appearing on the screen, but the answer to that is the main reason for the selection of key-types available today. So, how does it feel to press those keys? What changes can you possibly search to make the process of typing ‘better’ for you? Here’s some history:
Rubber, Silicon, and Mechanics
For those of us that started out on typewriters, we know how much easier it is to type on electronic devices: Remember the force required to hit that typewriter key so that the metal arm threw itself at the paper with enough force to print on paper? Today’s keyboards don’t have to use that kind of pressure – now all you have to do is press the key with enough force to make two contacts meet each other under the keypad. Most keyboards are mass produced, so the cheapest way possible to manufacture these keyboards is the one that most well-known names go for.
The vast majority of keyboards on the market today feature a Rubber or Silicon dome that sits directly under the key that you see, and connect to the ‘works’ that lie under the keyboard. The visible part of the key is called the Key Cap. These are relatively expensive items that must deliver a long life. However, it is the switch below it that receives all of the trauma and shock of being pressed – or hit! – repeatedly over the life of the product. A much more cost effective method is to protect this switch with a simple rubber dome that sits under the Key Cap, and suffers the repeated shock of action time and time again. While the differences in the shape and thickness of the domes that the mass producer of your keyboard uses determines the travel distance, resistance, and tactile feedback of the switch, they are all built to eventually fail.
If you are looking for a better experience, there are keyboards that have mechanical switches: Rather than based on one contact pad below the keyboard, these switches have individual mechanisms underneath each key-cap, and require much less force to produce a result. Are these more expensive than rubber-domed switches? Of course, you are looking at buying a much more up-market product, with a longer life and better working action. If you are spending a lot of time writing, gaming, or communicating every day, then why not make the investment to create your best possible working environment?
How the Mechanics work.
Let’s get a little technical, here: In most cases the mechanical key is actuated (the keystroke is generated, and the message sent to the computer) halfway through the key travel distance. For example, the key may be capable of traveling 3 mm before hitting the bottom of the key-well, but the keystroke is generated after 1.5 mm, by the action of a lever next to the key. This is a double-edged sword, however. The user may experience a learning curve getting accustomed to these keys. They are used to a ‘full stop’ to their typing action, where the key ‘hits bottom’, and sends a signal to their fingers that the signal has been received by the computer. There is also a sound generated that also tells them that the action is complete: No-one wants to stare at the screen to see if the message has been correctly received, we just expect that it has. However, we have gotten used to this sound, so the choice of where the key bottoms out and the sound that it makes when that is finished is completely up to the operator. In other words, your decision to move to a mechanical key-operated keyboard is a personal one based on what you are accustomed to (I.e., one that feels and sounds like a regular rubber-domed switch), or – at the other side of the spectrum – one that has a ‘click’ sound, and has no push-back to your finger action.
Your preference will be somewhere on this spectrum, somewhere, so in our next post, we will discuss the different types of mechanical switches, and what they offer for you on that spectrum.