320px-Z1013_folie2Keypads have come a long ways over the years, with manufacturers making them smaller, thinner and with better ergonomics. In addition, there’s also an alternative available for the traditional mechanical keypad: membrane keypads. Membrane keypads feature a unique design in which the keys are part of a single component. This is in stark contrast, of course, to mechanical keypads, which features separate, independent keys. If you’re interested in learning more about membrane keypads and how they work, keep reading.

Membrane keypads boast a unique design that’s characterized by the use of pressure pads instead of separate moving keys. These pressure pads have outlines and symbols printed on the surface, allowing the user to see which key is which.

In terms of mechanics, membrane keypads work by creating electrical contact with the bottom of the keyboard and the underlying circuit. The circuit remains off when the keys are left in their default, upright position. But when the operator presses down on a key, it creates direct contact between the bottom of the key and the underlying circuit; thus, completing the circuit while subsequently telling the computer or device which key was pressed.

Membrane keypads have actually been around for several decades now, with some of the earliest models dating back to the 1980s. It wasn’t until recently, however, when they became a popular alternative to traditional mechanical keypads for consumer use. Since then, they’ve slowly grown in popularity, with many users preferring them over their mechanical counterparts.

Of course, there are both advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of membrane keypads. One of the most notable benefits associated with membrane keypads is durability/longevity. Mechanical keypads have a tendency to attract dirt and debris under their keys. Over time, this can prevent the electrical circuit from being completed; thus, rendering the key inoperable. Thankfully, problems such as these are easily avoided with membrane keypads, simply because there’s no “space” underneath the keys in which dirt and debris can accumulate.

One of the disadvantages associated with membrane keypads, however, is their lack of tactile feedback. Tactile feedback is used to tell the operator that his or her touch was properly registered. Membrane keypads have little-to-no tactile feedback, making error-free typing harder than using a mechanical keypad.

What are your thoughts on membrane keypads? Love them or hate them?