Mechanical Key Switches

One method keyboards can use for registering key presses is to place an independent mechanical switch under every key. Most such switches work much like the switches on other electrical push buttons with which you're familiar, such as the buttons used to power on many computers or stereo components. A piece of metal in the movable portion of the switch completes an electrical circuit when the switch is depressed. The keyboard's circuitry detects this closed circuit and translates it into an appropriate signal to the computer. In order to have the key return to its original position after it's been depressed, mechanical switches usually include a spring. These components are normally all encased in a small package underneath the keys you see on your keyboard. Figure 15.5 shows two mechanical switches from which the keycaps have been removed. Locking the switch itself into a sealed box helps protect the sensitive components 15

from dirt, thereby prolonging the switch's life. k m

Part IV

Figure 15.5

Mechanical key switches are sealed against the environment to protect them from dust and other contaminants.

Figure 15.5

Mechanical key switches are sealed against the environment to protect them from dust and other contaminants.

Mechanical key switches provide strong tactile feedback and long life. Keyboards of this type are often described as "crisp" or "clicky." This type of keyboard is available from NMB (http://www.nmbtech.com) and Alps (http://www.alpsusa.com), among others. Most people who have strong preferences about their keyboards prefer mechanical keyboards, although they can be hard to find. Mechanical keyboards are more expensive than the rubber dome designs that are more common.

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