keyboard (computing)

We explain what the computer keyboard is, its history, characteristics and types. Also, how the keys are laid out.

The keyboard is one of the main input devices.

What is the keyboard?

In computing Y computing, the keyboard is a peripheral or input device or input (input) of information. It consists of a set of keys or buttons arranged horizontally on a sheet, where they act as levers mechanical or electronic switches, thus allowing the entry of information encoded to the computer system by the Username.

It operates in a similar way to that of typewriters: it associates to each key a character, a function or a set of characters, which when pressed by the user's fingers, enter a specific signal to the computer, tablet or Smartphone.

The keyboard is probably the main way of communicating the user with the computer system. It was also the first to be devised, at least as far as modern computers are concerned.

Today there are different configurations of the computer keyboard and different models, depending on their ergonomic construction and internal logic. Some of them have even incorporated the functions of others peripherals, like the mouse or mouse: not only do they come in different languages, but also adapted to the Operating systems and computational models that exist in the market.

Brief history of the keyboard

The history of the keyboard begins with its direct adaptation of the typewriter, invented around 1868. The first modern copies actually belonged to teletypes and electric typewriters, or were a mechanism for communicating with computer terminals through a serial port. .

In response, these early computers that did not have a monitor, used to turn on lights or directly print messages to communicate with the operator.

The first keyboards as we know them today appeared with home computers some years later. They came in an immense variety of versions and lineups, until the IBM AT Multifunction keyboard was instituted as the standard, given the success of the brand's first personal computers, around the 1980s.

The keyboard considered "standard" was developed by IBM in 1987. It was the MF-II (Multifunction II), created from the AT, and served to innovations future. The keyboards of the technology Macintosh, meanwhile, incorporated this universal model adapting it to the needs of their brand and their Operating system.

The Microsoft Natural Keyboard from Microsoft, emerged with the most popular versions of Windows. Its ergonomic advances and new functionality keys for PC, allowed greater control of multimedia peripherals, for example.

Keyboard Features

The keyboards operate through the operation of a microcontroller, equipped with software own, capable of carrying out matrix explorations every time we press a key and thus know what it has been, and what character or function it corresponds to.

This occurs by assigning each key a numerical value, through a code that is linked to its physical position, called Scan code. This code, for example, is different when we press several keys at the same time, which allows the composition of many more signs than are drawn on the keyboard.

On the other hand, keyboards communicate with the system in different ways, depending on whether they are physically separated from the system. CPU or if, as in laptops, they are part of it.

There are wireless keyboards, for example, that use technology Wifi, while others remain faithful to the connecting cable. There are even removable models, which allow the user to physically handle the different blocks that compose it separately.

Keyboard types

Flexible keyboards can be bent or even submerged.

The simplest way to classify keyboards is by looking at their physical form, that is, their structure and his design industrial. Thus, we have the following cases:

  • Classic keyboards. Those that are rectangular and follow the esthetic of the standard IBM keyboard.
  • Ergonomic keyboards. Those that have been designed to fit the shape of human hands and not cause as much damage to their joints.
  • Multimedia keyboards. Those that have direct access keys to various functionalities of the computer system, especially those that have to do with audio, video, connectivity or even certain applications.
  • Flexible keyboards. Those produced from lightweight elastic materials, such as silicone or plastic soft, and that can therefore bend over themselves, adapt to uneven surfaces or some can even be submerged in water, without affecting their functionality.
  • On-screen keyboards. Those that do not exist physically, but are projected onto a touch screen or touch screen, and that are pressed directly on it.
  • Membrane keyboards. Discontinued due to their low resistance to use, they consisted of two thin plastic sheets or membranes, equipped with conductive tracks on their inner face, so that pressing with the finger would allow the electronic signal to pass through.

Keys types

On the keyboard, the keys are organized into blocks of different types.

Generally, standard keyboard keys can be classified according to their function into four separate blocks, which are:

  • Function block. It is located as high as possible on the keyboard and presents a series of numbered buttons, accompanied by the letter F (Function, "Function"). Its specific functions will depend on the Program running, although the Esc key (Escape) found at the end of the row, is usually associated with the rapid exit of the programs and situations on the computer.
  • Alphanumeric block. Located below the previous one, it presents the total of Arabic numbers from 1 to 9 (and then 0), and below them the entire alphabet, in the same way as typewriters. They are usually accompanied by special keys for writing, such as the space bar, the shift key, other grammatical signs, etc.
  • Special block. Located to the right of the alphanumeric, it contains the four position keys or movement, in four addresses: up, down, right and left. Along with them are special keys such as page up or down, print screen, delete, start, end, pause, etc.
  • Numeric block. Located as far to the right of the keyboard as possible, it operates like a numeric keypad when you press the key. block num, and as a keyboard of displacement without pressing it. It also has the basic arithmetic signs and a key enter additional, along with the two decimal operators: the period and the comma.

Keyboard distribution

Similarly, there are various key layouts on the keyboard, depending on the language it is in, the manufacturer company, and the computer model. The standard in the West is the IBM keyboard, in its QWERTY layout, named for being the first three letters of the alphanumeric block.

This distribution comes from the Anglo-Saxon typewriters. It was intended for English, but later it was moved to other languages, adding accents and special characters such as the Spanish eñe, or the Portuguese ce cedilla.

However, this layout has been highly criticized from an ergonomic point of view. There are nicer alternatives like Colemak, Carpalx or Workman, which put less strain on the hands, or the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard.

It is possible to switch between different distributions using the software options of the Operating System, even in cases where they do not directly coincide with the characters painted above each key.

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