main input device is the keyboard, and it's almost impossible
to imagine a computer without one. A computer keyboard looks
alot like the keyboard for a typewriter but has added keys that
provide many different features and enhancements. The keyboards
sold today are called enhanced keyboards and have 101 to 106
individual keys. The layouts are basically the same with the
odd key situated differently. They generally hook up to your
computer with a DIN-5, PS2 (mini DIN-6), or USB connector.
Keyboards can definitely
have a certain feel or touch to them and it's best to try one
out before you buy. Some can be quite springy while others feel
kind of mushy, others have a definite snap or click to them.
Some actually make a clicking sound as you type (some people
might like this, it drives me nuts). There are split keyboards
and ergonomic keyboards meant to help reduce the possiblity
of carpal tunnel syndrome.
Of course, you get a
keyboard when you buy a computer, but it's not an overly expensive
item and can easily be replaced with one more to your liking.
When I say it's not an overly expensive item, I'm referring
to the generic keyboards sold with the average computer system.
The newer high-tech, exotic colored, ergonomic, split keyboards
sporting extra buttons for the CD player and instant internet
access with page-scroll and touchpad are starting to get up
there in price.
Once you've found a
keyboard that you find comfortable, one of your main concerns
should be proper typing form. Repetative stress injuries are
a concern and poor posture can also result in back and neck
pain. Sit up straight and find yourself a chair that supports
the natural curve in your back. It should be adjusted to your
keyboard so that you don't have to lean forward or hunch to
type. Your shoulders should be relaxed with your forearms and
wrists fairly level, fingers slightly curved. Wrist pads are
made for you to rest your wrists on while taking short breaks,
your wrists shouldn't be on them while you type. Don't sit and
type constantly, try to take a few breaks every now and then
and have a stretch.
Keyboards are fairly trouble-free input devices. However,
sometimes troubles do arise and there are a few relatively simple
If you can't seem to get any response from your keyboard,
the first thing to check is the connection. Make sure the connector
is plugged securely into the proper port. Sometimes it's possible
to plug into the wrong port if both your keyboard and your mouse
use a PS2 connector. Unless it attaches with a USB connector,
make sure your computer is off before you plug or unplug your
keyboard or mouse. If your keyboard is unplugged when you boot
your computer, you'll get a 'keyboard error' that may or may
not halt your system, depending on your computer's setup. Another
thing that can cause this error is if there's a key stuck down
or if something is resting on a key during bootup.
One more thing
on this particular subject, computer cases used to have a keylock
switch on them. They're not found on cases that often now, but
some do still have them, especially network servers. This allows
a person to lock out keyboard access to any unwanted users.
This might be something else to check if you're not getting
any response from your keyboard.
If you have a key or several keys that stick after being
pressed, it may be a little difficult to pinpoint at first,
but you'll probably soon figure it out. Have you maybe spilled
coffee or coke on your keyboard recently? Do you eat over it,
smoke a pipe or cigarettes at your computer? It is possible
to rinse a keyboard with water, let it dry thoroughly, and use
it again. If it's just a couple of keys, you can pop the caps
off with a chip puller and try to clean underneath. Be careful
of the longer keycaps like the Enter key, Shift keys, and spacebar,
they have small metal hangers under them to keep them level
when pressed. It's really easy to break these if you don't know
how to get them off properly. Yes, it is possible to take all
the keycaps off, take the keyboard apart and wash everything
down, but consider what your time is worth too. By the time
you've removed all the keys, washed everything, dried it properly,
and replaced the caps, a new keyboard might have been a more
economical answer. Then again, if you're going to replace it
anyway, why not just try rinsing it under the sink or putting
it through the rinse cycle in the dishwasher without any soap.
After allowing it to dry thoroughly, test it out. If it works,
great, if not, buy a new one.
Change the Settings
If you find your keyboard doing strange things, check out
the Control Panel. If someone else uses your computer, maybe
they've toyed with the Keyboard Settings or set some of the
Accessability Options. If text is being overwritten instead
of inserted when you type, check the Insert key, this toggles
between insert and overwrite.
Although not all that common,
keyboards can also have electrical shorts and wiring problems.
It's nice to have a spare keyboard that you can swap in and
out to eliminate the possibility.
Care and Cleaning
Keyboards can be cleaned with
mild soap and water on a damp cloth that's been well wrung out.
Turn your keyboard upside down and tap it on the bottom to knock
out crumbs and ashes or food particles, then use canned air
to blow the dust, grime and dead skin out from under the keys.
I don't suggest using Isopropal Alcohol, but if you choose that
route, try it on a small, unnoticable spot first to make sure
it doesn't melt or smear the plastic finish. Keeping your keyboard
covered when not in use can help keep out the dust. If your
fingers are particularly grimy then you can buy keyboard 'skins'
that fit over the keys to keep them clean and prevent dust,
dead skin and other particles from getting underneath.