A computer keyboard is one of the primary input devices used with a computer that looks similar to those found on electric typewriters, but with some additional keys. The modern keyboard is based on the typewriter, a typing device that was first developed and patented in 1868 by Christopher Sholes.
Keyboards allow you to input letters, numbers, and other symbols into a computer that often function as commands. The following image shows a 104-key Saitek keyboard with indicators pointing to each of the major key sections of a keyboard including the control keys, function keys, LED indicators, wrist pad, arrow keys, and keypad.
Below is a closer up image of a QWERTY computer keyboard with each of the keys selectable. Hover over any of the keys below to see a description of the key and click any of the keys to open a new page with full details about the key.
Today, most desktop computer keyboards connect to the computer using either USB or Bluetooth for wireless communication. Before USB, a computer may have used PS/2 or AT (Din5) as a keyboard interface.
Types of keyboards
Today, most keyboards are similar to each other, but may be missing one or more of the sections mentioned earlier (e.g. the keypad). Where keyboards begin to differ the most is with the keyboard layout. While most keyboards use the QWERTY layout, there are still people who use the DVORAK layout.
A laptop keyboard is different from a desktop keyboard to help reduce the size and the overall weight of the laptop. Most laptop keyboards are made smaller by placing the keys closer to each other and not always including control keys or a keypad. For a laptop to have all the same functions of a desktop keyboard, laptop keyboards use a Fn key that is used in conjunction with other keys to perform special functions. For example, pressing the Fn key and the up or down arrow on the keyboard shown below, increases and decreases the brightness of the screen.
Another difference with a laptop keyboard is the type of switch beneath each key or how the keys feel when pressed down. Some users may even experience more typing errors when typing on a laptop because of how easy it can be to press another key next to the key you intended to press.
Smartphone and tablet keyboards
Today's smartphones and tablets do not come with a physical keyboard although it is an optional add-on. These devices utilize a thumb keyboard or on-screen keyboard to type messages and other text. In the picture to the right is an example of the Apple iPhone on-screen keyboard.
Why is the keyboard an input device?
- How to use a keyboard.
- How can I improve my typing?
- Not all of the keys on my keyboard are functional.
- Keyboard shortcut keys.
- Computer keyboard manufacturers.
- Computer keyboard help and support.