When choosing a keyboard, we have always had two options; one is a membrane keyboard which is the quieter one, and the other is a mechanical keyboard; the noisy, clunky one. Both send your keystrokes as inputs for the computer to process, but they do so in different ways. That, when discussed, will answer how membrane keyboards work.
What’s a membrane keyboard?
A membrane keyboard has exactly that of a membrane. Each key lies over a different part of a three-layer two membrane that is pressure-sensitive. If you apply pressure by pressing a key in a specific area, it registers as a keystroke.
Introduction to the membrane keyboards
It wasn’t until the 90s that membrane keyboards started gaining popularity; they were quieter, lighter, and more streamlined. These keyboards were perfect for the new laptop generation of computers and even pcs were more marketable with less clunky accessories. Newer membrane keyboards have improved a lot with longer lifespans and far more impressive rollover. But mechanical keyboards are still the go-to for demanding keyboard use such as gaming or typing.
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A mechanical keyboard vs. a membrane keyboard
On a membrane keyboard when you press a key down, the keycap is just squishing down a little rubber dome that applies pressure to a set of electrical contacts. When these two contacts meet, it registers a key press. This is why membrane keyboards have a kind of squishy feel to them, and they also make a lot less noise when you press a key.
On a mechanical keyboard, however, the keycap presses down a shaft that has a little spring under it. As this key presses down, there is a little gold-plated cross-point contact that clicks into place and closes the connection and that is what registers the key press. This is why mechanical keyboards have a really good tactile and clicky feel to them and all the precision plastic and metal parts are what give them their longevity. In other words, a mechanical keyboard uses an individual switch for each key. Once you press down far enough and engage the switch on a key, it registers as a keystroke.
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Simultaneous key input
Membrane keyboards have had a lot of problems with simultaneous key input or rollover as it is called as they are built with many pressure pads on one membrane. If you press many keys at once or try to type very fast some keystrokes wouldn’t be registered.
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