System News: The evolution of the humble keyboard

System News: The evolution of the humble keyboard

Keyboards have become like mobile phone plans or insurance options, there’s so much variety and choice now it’s almost… depressing (hah!). Mark Williams looks at the continuing evolution of keyboards

I remember a time when you couldn’t care less about your input peripherals, the fanciest thing you could do was get a gel wrist rest for the keyboard or a mouse pad with a jazzy printed design. Then mice started becoming designer items with fancy specs to increase accuracy, response times and comfort thanks to the revolution brought in by optical sensor technology.

This mouse boom pretty much came at the cost of mind space for the trusty keyboard, which to my recollection went into a sort of dark age. Sure there were gamer/enthusiast-focused keyboards during that time, but short of the Logitech G15 (which I had to Google to recall) I can’t really think of any other models from that period off the top of my head. Unlike the Logitech MX500 and Razer Diamondback which immediately springs to mind for mice of the era.

It wasn’t until keyboards sporting Cherry-branded MX switches made their way into enthusiast keyboards that the scene began to change. While not a buckling spring design found in the iconic IBM Model M keyboard that typists love, Cherry’s take on the mechanical key switch promised much of the tactile and audio feedback of a buckling spring switch of yore but without the activation forces required.

Having been brought up on spongy membrane or rubber dome, even scissor switch keyboards, the thought of a mechanical switching mechanism brought awe and wonder to a generation of users who’d never seen or used an IBM Model M.

There were also different versions of the MX switch, reds for gamers, blues for typists, and browns for those in between.

Then LEDs happened. Backlit everything everywhere. At first in single colours pioneered by the likes of the iconic Corsair K70, soon followed by the RGB revolution we find ourselves in today, where any colour under any key you choose is now possible, and can all flash, change and react to your inputs. Our keyboards have turned into the disco floors of the 21st century for our fingers.

Surprisingly, alternate keyboard switch technologies are still being developed with analogue keyboards and so-called mem-chanical/mecha-membrane switches recently showing up. Aimpad’s R5 keyboard sports analogue keys which are presented to the system as a separate Xbox controller; when running around in an FPS using WASD keys, how far you depress the key actually controls the speed of your avatar - very cool.

Mem-chanical/mecha-membrane switches are very recent too, claiming to give the tactile actuation feedback of a mechanical switch with a soft cushiony feel for easy touch typing. 

It’s great seeing all the innovation in this space after mice had their decade-long head start.

SHOP TALK

What is your best-selling premium keyboard? What features do you think make it so popular?

Chris, MWave:
“Our top selling Keyboard for 2016 has been the Razer BlackWidow Chroma RGB. What has made it so popular is the fact that, along with the RGB craze, it has an optimal travel distance on its clicky switches so inputs can happen faster. It also has additional macro keys, USB and audio ports, and the iconic BlackWidow design that popularised the modern mechanical keyboard. Recently though, we’ve noticed a trend where the lines between gamer and high-end-looking products have become a bit blurred and over the last three months Corsair Gaming’s K70 RGB Rapidfire has been the top seller. It’s still a gamer keyboard through and through, but would fit in just as well in a business office with its brushed aluminium detailing. It’s got all the same ports and features as the BlackWidow but includes a wrist rest and uses linear Cherry MX Speed switches that actuate ever so slightly faster than the Razer’s. Both these keyboards are fantastic to use and in the end it comes down to aesthetics and whether you’d like your switches clicky or smooth.” 

John, TI Computers:
“Our bestselling premium keyboard is the Asus Strix Tactic Pro Gaming Mechanical Keyboard. At the attractive sub $130.00 price tag, it sells like hotcakes. This is currently one of the most friendly Cherry MX USB gaming keyboard on the market, and offers both 100 anti-ghost key and hardware macro keys. In fact, we even have customers especially looking for this keyboard only because it has macro keys under the space bar. You just cannot go wrong with a product that has the right hardware at the right price.” 

James, Scorptec:
“The Corsair Gaming K70 Series keyboards would be the most popular we sell. I believe its combination of solid build quality, multiple options of Cherry Switches, the reputation and reliability that comes with Cherry Switches, and features such as full RGB backlighting lead the K70 series to be the most popular we sell. Along with the fact all of that comes at a competitive price, the tried and true 104-key layout, as well as full compatibility for custom aftermarket keycaps.”
 

Source: Copyright © PC & Tech Authority. All rights reserved.

See more about:  cherry  |  keyboard  |  mechanical  |  mx  |  razer diamondback  |  system news
 
 

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