How Computer Keyboards Work

By: Jeff Tyson, Tracy V. Wilson & Chris Pollette
An average Windows keyboard.

When you look at all the extras and options that are available for new computer keyboards, it can be hard to believe that their original design came from mechanical typewriters that didn't even use electricity. Now, you can buy ergonomic keyboards that bear little resemblance to flat, rectangular models with ordinary square keys. Some flashier models light up, roll up or fold up, and others offer options for programming your own commands and shortcuts.

But no matter how many bells and whistles they offer, most keyboards operate using similar technology. They use switches and circuits to translate a person's keystrokes into a signal a computer can understand. In this article we will explore keyboard technology along with different key layouts, options and designs.