Computer keyboards are the the most widely used input devices. Most of us use them almost every day, at work or at home. But have you ever wondered who invented them and why do they look like this?
Going back to the origins
The origins of keyboards can be found in the first typing devices patented or created back in the 1700s and 1800s. According to documents, the first patent for a typing machine belonged to the Englishman Henry Mill, back in 1714. Since then, many other typing devices have been patented, but none of them went into commercial production until 1867.
The first typing machine manufactured for commercial use was the Remington typewriter, created by Sholes & Glidden. Wondering how it looked like? Surprisingly, it was very similar to an old sewing machine and it even came with a foot pedal to control carriage returns. This typewriter model is usually referred as “the first typewriter”.
Since this invention, the typing devices went through a lot of changes in shape, size, design, technology, layout and functionality, increasing their efficiency and becoming more user-friendly.
In 1961, IBM released the first model of its Selectric typewriter. This electromechanical device had a tremendous influence on the modern computer keyboards in terms of efficiency, ergonomics and typing speed.
Evolution of computer keyboards
Throughout the 1950’s to 1970’s, typewriters replaced most of the old keypunch machines, becoming the primary input devices used for computing. Things started to change the 1970’s, when the first computer keyboards made their appearance and typewriters were taken over by these new devices.
In the 1980’s, IBM released its first personal computer, which came equipped with the model M keyboard. This is considered the most universal keyboard design and the father of modern keyboards. The device was an instant success and it’s still in demand today, due to its high quality construction and its comfortable, mechanical feel.
The 1990’s came with a novelty: the membrane keyboards. As they were cheaper to produce, quieter, lighter weight and slimmer, the membrane switches began to replace the individual mechanical keys, especially after the introduction of laptops.
Over the last years, keyboards have known all kind of designs, from ergonomic keyboards to folding keyboards, mouse and keyboard combo devices, mini wireless keyboard devices or virtual touch-screen keyboards. Moreover, today we talk about modern technological possibilities such as using voice recognition and touch screen computers. It looks like we might be one step away from abandoning the traditional keyboard, so a question pops into our minds – Is the history of keyboards coming to an end?