|Laptop keyboards have gone through many changes since the time laptops first started appearing. As new technologies allow for smaller and thinner laptops, laptop keyboards require even more ingenuity by manufacturers to retain the solid feel and typing speed that users require while still retaining the portability and lightweight attributes that most users desire.
Many technologies have been employed in the past for transmitting a key press to the computer, as well as for providing a solid feel for the user. The earliest keyboards used "key switches", which used very large keys and had a heavy feel when typing, as well as producing a clicking sound for each key press. Since laptops could not accommodate such large keys, they employed the use of small plungers, usually made of rubber, for the key action. Most modern laptops use a "scissor-switch" design for each key, which uses two plastic pieces in a scissor formation. When the key is pressed, the plastic pieces slide and collapse, registering the key press down to a membrane switch. The feel of the scissor-switch keys have become so popular that some manufacturers are now incorporating it into desktop keyboards.
The other main challenge for a laptop keyboard is limited space. With the size of most compact laptops, it is virtually impossible to fit a full-size keyboard into the available space. This has sparked a number of solutions to the problem. Most laptop keyboards do not include a 10-key number keypad. Instead, some of the letter and number keys often double for the num pad with the use of "fn" keys, or function keys, which enable the alternate key function when pressed together. For a user who does a lot of 10-key entry, a separate number pad can be purchased as an additional accessory. In the past few years, as multimedia applications have become more present in computer use, laptop and notebook keyboards have begun to include media keys which can control play, pause, volume, and other functions with a simple key press. Sometimes, these media keys are an alternate function of a number key or function keys, such as F1, F2. In many cases, they are enabled by the fn key, much like the num pad.
Catering to business travelers who may be working on a plane in low light, or other users who work in low light, many laptops have begun to offer backlit keyboards. With the addition of a backlight, these laptop keyboards can glow to illuminate the letters and numbers to make them easier to find in the dark or in low light.
When shopping for a laptop keyboard replacement, it is a good idea to use a parts locator tool. This type of tool allows users to enter their laptop's model number to see exactly what replacement parts are available for it. This ensures compatibility and avoids the hassle of returns and exchanges.