Rubber Dome Keyboards

Most keyboards sold for x86 PCs today use a rubber dome design. Underneath the keys lies a rubber-like membrane formed into a dome. When you press a key, that action forces the rubber dome to collapse. Inside the dome lies a carbon contact, which completes an electrical circuit in much the same way that the switch in a mechanical keyboard completes a circuit. This arrangement is illustrated in Figure 15.6, which shows two rubber dome keyboard switches in cutaway side view, one depressed and one not. Because of the resiliency of rubber and similar compounds, rubber dome keyboards don't require springs.

Released Depressed

Figure 15.6

The dome in a rubber dome keyboard collapses when you depress a key, then springs back to its normal position when you release the key.

Released Depressed

Figure 15.6

The dome in a rubber dome keyboard collapses when you depress a key, then springs back to its normal position when you release the key.

Rubber dome keyboards vary substantially in their feel. Some have strong tactile feedback similar to that available in mechanical keyboards, although they're typically a bit quieter and not quite as crisp. Others have a much "mushier" feel. Touch typists generally object to keyboards that lack strong tactile feedback. Unfortunately, most new computers sold today include extraordinarily cheap rubber dome keyboards that provide little in the way of tactile feedback. If you purchase such a computer, you might want to replace its keyboard with a better mechanical model, or at least a higher-quality rubber dome keyboard. Fortunately, the keyboards all look the same to the computer, so you can replace a rubber dome keyboard with a mechanical switch keyboard without worry about compatibility with your computer.

One of the advantages of rubber dome keyboards is that they're resistant to dirt and liquids. Although I don't recommend trying it, I've heard of people running rubber dome keyboards through dishwashers to clean them, with no ill effects! Mechanical switch keyboards would almost certainly be damaged by such treatment, because water would likely seep into the switches, causing corrosion.

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