Your keyboard is important

Why you should care about your keyboard

Ducky One TKL Keyboard in use.                                                                                                                                                                           Hunter Keaster/Talon

Keyboards. The clicking can be overheard in your local cafe, the clacking from the workspace of the eager student next to you. A seismic shift has occurred in the means by which we as humans connect with the world around us. The sound of a pen delicately scratching coarse paper — or, even more archaic, a hunk of lead etching grooves into a notebook — are becoming things of the past. The instant actuation of a key switch is becoming the way that we express ourselves. 

Unfortunately, keyboards have not been evolving for the better. Because of mass production and a focus on expediency in the manufacturing world, keyboard quality has only been getting worse. With all of our fingers being on keys more than ever during COVID-19, it’s time to reconsider those thin black keys illuminated by the beloved glowing apple. 

When you depress a keycap (the part your finger touches) on a keyboard, a “switch” under the keycap is pushed down and sends a signal to your computer. Most modern keyboards use a “membrane switch” to measure the point of actuation (how far you have to press in order for the switch to send a signal). While the technology in membrane switches has made keyboards more affordable, it has also made them less reliable, efficient, and satisfying. 

The problem with membrane switches is that, in order to actuate, two plastic membranes must touch. These membranes are flexible and flimsy, thus the point of actuation on a membrane switch is inconsistent. There is a different amount of force required to send a signal every time you press a key. This can cause a key to not register an actuation when you push down on it, missed letters, and — of course — the dreaded double press. 

There is a simple answer to all of these problems: mechanical switches. A mechanical switch is extremely different from the troublesome membrane switch. Rather than using a flimsy plastic membrane, mechanical switches utilize a spring activation system which ensures consistent actuation. Once you go mechanical, you will never go back. The experience of typing on a mechanical keyboard is much more satisfying, consistent and enjoyable than typing on a membrane keyboard. 

For one, mechanical keyboards just feel better. Membrane keyboards tend to feel mushy, like there’s a pile of mashed potatoes under the keycaps. Mechanical keyboards on the other hand feel responsive and clicky. This allows for your fingers to elegantly bounce off keys as they move to the next word (writing this article feels amazing). 

Additionally, mechanical keyboards allow for customization. Don’t like the feeling of one type of mechanical switch? Don’t fret, there are dozens of options. Some switches have more distinct “clicks,” while others are completely silent. Some switches take a lot of force to push down, while others require just a touch. The options are expansive and the experience is unmatched. 

Having a good quality keyboard is essential for my productivity. Because my keyboard is such a joy to type on, I am more motivated to do work. I look at writing essays not as a task, but as another opportunity to utilize a fun tool. 

The instrument we all use to communicate with others should be one of our most important possessions. So… start clicking!

Below is a list of some of my favorite mechanical keyboard brands:

  1. Ducky
  2. Vortex
  3. Anne Pro (wireless and compact option)
  4. Corsair