What Is a Mechanical Keyboard?

Mechanical 60 percent keyboard are the next revolution in computing. Surprisingly, they have nearly always been around, even dating back to the now famous IBM Model M. They have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years, reaching audiences from technology professionals to gaming enthusiasts. You might be asking what a mechanical keyboard is, and why it’s so special. Well, a mechanical keyboard is one that uses mechanical key-switches. To understand why this is important, let’s look at most common desktop keyboards.

When you press a key on a standard keyboard, here’s what happens: the key pushes a rubber dome, that then “squishes” down to make contact with the plastic circuit board. These are called rubber-dome keyboards. On most laptop keyboards and slim-profile desktop keyboards, they use tiny interlocking plastic tabs that bend when pressed, these are called scissor-switch keyboards. Most keyboards, as you can see, don’t use an actual reliable switch, but instead use these intermediary systems can can fail over time, feel “mushy”, and provide inconsistent tactile feedback to the typist. There are variety of switches that can be found in high-quality mechanical keyboards. They fall into three major categories, Cherry MX, ALPS, and buckling spring.

The Cherry MX style of switch, which is produced by the Cherry Corporation from Germany, uses different-colored key-stems to denote different key-switch characteristics. Cherry MX Blues which provide a tactile feel and audible click when pressed, Browns provide the tactile feel but have a softer sound for quieter use, and the Blacks lack a tactile feel and use a linear-action for when quick key-presses are crucial.

The ALPS switch is made by the Alps Electric Company from Japan. There are many variations of the ALPS key-switch, the most common of which has two types: Complicated and Simplified. The Complicated ALPS comes in varieties similar to that of the Cherry MX, one with a tactile feel and audible click, one with a tactile feel but a softer sound, and lastly one with a linear-action that doesn’t have the tactile feel of its peers. The Simplified ALPS has four types, Type I, II, III, and IV. The most common modern mechanical keyboards use a further variation on the Simplified Type I. One can find a White version that has the tactile feel and audible click, and a Black version which has a tactile feel, but a softer sound.

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