Optical keyboards have become increasingly popular in recent years. Like all keyboards, they consist of rows of keys. Some of these keys are for letters, whereas others are for numbers or special characters. Optical keyboards aren’t the same as scissor-switch keyboards, however. While they both considered mechanical keyboards, only optical keyboards leverage light to detect keypresses.

The Basics of Optical Keyboards

Also known as photo-optical keyboards, optical keyboards are characterized by their use of light to detect keypresses. They’ve been around for over a half-century. The first optical keyboard, in fact, was invented in the early 1960s by Harley Kelchner. Since then, they’ve become a popular alternative to scissor-switch keyboards. Optical keyboards are simply computer or device keyboards that use light to detect keypresses.

How Optical Keyboards Work

You might be wondering how optical keyboards work exactly. All keyboards consist of rows of individual keys — and optical keyboards are no exception. Underneath these keys of an optical keyboard, though, are light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and photo sensors. The LEDs emit light, whereas the photo sensors detect this light.

While there are different types of optical keyboards, most of them work in the same way. The LEDs emit light across the center of each key. The photo sensors, conversely, detect this light. When you press a key, the light will be obstructed for that key. This allows the photo sensors to detect your keypress so that they can respond with the appropriate command.

Benefits of Optical Keyboards

One of the main benefits of optical keyboards is protection from moisture damage. Unlike scissor-switch keyboards, they won’t succumb to damage when exposed to water, humidity or other liquids. Optical keyboards feature a completely sealed design that protects them from moisture damage.

Thanks to their sealed design, optical keyboards are easy to clean. It’s frustrating when dirt and debris become stuck underneath the keys of a keyboard. Assuming you have an optical keyboard, you can easily clean it without fear of damaging it in the process.

Optical keyboards produce tactile feedback as well. Many people assume that only scissor-style keyboards produce tactile feedback, but this isn’t the case. Optical keyboards are capable of producing the same or similar level of tactile feedback as their scissor-style counterparts. With this tactile feedback, you’ll feel optical keyboards respond to your keypresses.

Finally, optical keyboards are typically thinner than other types of keyboards. They support slimmer and lower profile designs thanks to their use of LEDs and photo sensors.