Keyboard – definition and meaning

A keyboard is either a device or part of a device on which people input letters, numbers, and characters. It is a panel or board with keys, hence the name. Laptops, tablets, smartphones, other communication devices and typewriters have keyboards. In Europe, North America, and South America keyboards have the A-B-C alphabet, numbers, and other characters.

When people type a letter, they tap their fingers on the panel of keys. For personal computers, keyboards are separate devices that connect through serial or ISB plugs.

Piano keyboards have black and white keys that we touch with our fingers to play music. Pianos, harpsichords, organs, synthesizers, and accordions are keyboard instruments, i.e., they have keyboards.

In fact, the word on its own, i.e., ‘keyboard’ may refer to an electronic musical instrument with keys.

A keyboardist is a musician who plays keyboard instruments.

This article focuses on the word when it refers to its use on computers, mobile phones, and typewriters.

The Oxford Living Dictionaries has the following definitions of the word:

“1. A panel of keys that operate a computer or typewriter. 2. A set of keys on a piano or similar musical instrument.”

“3. An electronic musical instrument with keys arranged as on a piano.”

There are many different types of keyboards. However, they all have one thing in common. We tap them with our fingers.

Etymology of keyboard

Etymology is the study of the history of words. It is also the study of how the meanings of words have evolved. Somebody who specializes in etymology is an etymologist.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word as a noun emerged in the English language around 1819. It was formed from two words: the noun ‘key‘ in the sense of ‘mechanism of a musical instrument,’ plus the noun ‘board.’

People used the word initially when just referring to musical instruments. However, in 1846, it extended to machines.

Etymologists believe people first used the word as a verb in 1926. As a verb, the word means to enter data using a keyboard.

Virtual keyboard

Virtual keyboards are software components that allow us to enter characters. In other words, we tap directly onto the screen of a tablet or smartphone screen which displays letters, numbers, and some symbols.

In fact, even larger devices, such as touchscreens on desktop computers have virtual keyboards. So too do some ATMs. Some virtual keyboards are projected onto the surface of a desk or a glass wall.

Put simply; a virtual keyboard is an image on a touchscreen that we use to write words, numbers, etc.

In this context, ‘virtual‘ means not existing physically but appearing to do so thanks to software.

On a desktop computer, for example, virtual keyboards offer an alternative input mechanism for users with disabilities. Also, they are useful for multilingual users who frequently switch between different languages.

Nearly all smartphones today have virtual keyboards. They are virtual because there is not enough room on the device for a physical keyboard.

Video – What is a mechanical keyboard?

Mechanical keyboards are durable, high-quality keyboards that have mechanical switches under each key. Many people prefer them to the more common ‘rubber dome’ type of board.

In this Logical Increments video, you can learn what types of mechanical keyboards there are, and which is best for you.