Macbook_keys_(colour_balance)Keyboards are designed in many different styles, one of the most common being chiclet. It’s used in personal computers, calculators, human machine interfaces, and more. Based on the name alone, it’s difficult to determine what exactly is a chiclet keyboard. So today we’re going to take a closer look at this keyboard design, revealings why it’s such a popular choice.

The chiclet-style keyboard was named after the popular Chiclets chewing gum, which are small, rectangular-shaped pieces. As such, the chiclet-style keyboard typically features keys of a similar shape, along with bezel fills between the key gaps. Of course, the term has somewhat changed over the years. Back in the early 1980s, chiclet-style keyboards were synonymous with low quality, poor designs. Today, however, the term largely refers to keyboards with a low-profile, flat bezel-separated keys, such as those used in most computer keyboards.

It’s important to note that the technology behind chiclet-style keyboards has evolved — and there’s no single “right” way to make them. Some feature keys that are integral to the membrane and deform upon pressed to create an electrical circuit. Others, however, have keys with individual scissor switches.

With that said, most chiclet-style keyboards feature several different layers, including an overlay layer, all-in-one rubber key layer, top membrane layer, holes layer, bottom membrane layer, and a layer of conductive traces at the very bottom.

Depending on the particular design, the bottom three layers of a chiclet-style keyboard may mimic those found in a membrane keyboard. This allows for a keypress to register when enough force is exerted on the top key. The conductive traces at the bottom are separated by a non-conductive gap; thus, preventing the flow of electricity in its default position.

So, what benefits does a chiclet-style keyboard offer? Well, one of the most notable benefits is the presence of tactile feedback — something that’s found in membrane keypads. Tactile feedback refers to the tangible “feeling” upon pressing a key. The general idea is that tactile feedback, such vibration, boosts typing accuracy by telling the operator that his or her keypress was properly registered.

Chiclet-style keyboards are also relatively inexpensive, thanks in part to their widespread use and popularity. You can find chiclet-style keyboards available for sale starting at just $10 bucks. That’s a small price to pay given the sheer utility they offer. Even so, the cost-savings and tactile feedback are just two of the many reasons why so many people prefer chiclet-style keyboards over other keyboard designs.