A typical computer keyboard is a complex mechanical device as well as a sophisticated electronic peripheral.
All those moving parts and components – the keys, the springs underneath the keys, the holes to keep the keys and springs in place, and so on and so forth.
The iPhone was the first mass-market device which enabled people to use a touchscreen keyboard.
Now, Apple has published a patent which shows a laptop computer which seems to feature a touchscreen keyboard.
The picture below shows a diagram, which was originally published on SlashGear.com.
The patent itself reads: “Device 10 may have displays such as upper display 14A and lower display 14B.
“Lower display 14B may extend into area 14B′ or area 14B′ may be used to house components such as a trackpad, keyboard, or other input-output devices (as an example).”
Presumably, “Device 10” refers to the laptop seen in the diagram.
But then, it could be a laptop or a tablet computer.
And if the technology catches on, which usually happens after Apple innovates something, we may see the end of keyboards with moving parts – no mechanical aspect, just electronics.
You may think this would make it cheaper because there will be fewer parts to manufacture and assemble, but chances are that just the materials alone used to build the keyboard of the future will cost more than the traditional keyboard.
It is, however, possible that if keyboards are going to become that sophisticated, why not place a microphone in them and see if they can be made to work as real-time transcription machines, saving us all from tons and tons of typing every day?
Another, more realistic thing is that a touchscreen would enable endless configurations. Apple could, if it wanted to, do away with the traditional QWERTY layout, making it easier for complete beginners to more quickly learn to type at speed.
Not only that, it may open up the keyboard display or user interface software to developers who can maybe create their own keyboard layouts and whatever else they imagine.