|A keyboard is a device having a set of buttons (keys), meant for controlling any device or for input of data. As a rule, keys are pressed by the fingers.
There are two main types of keyboards musical and alphanumeric. Musical keyboards are meant for playing on musical instruments (button accordion, piano, upright piano, organ and synthesizer). Each key corresponds to a particular sound. The usage of the word “keyboard” in music usually means the use of a synthesizer - an electronic keyboard instrument, capable of playing the sounds by means of an electrical generator of sound waves.
Alphanumeric keyboards are used for controlling technical and mechanical devices (typewriter, computer, calculator, cash register and phone). Each key corresponds to one or more particular symbols. It is possible to increase the number of operations which can be carried out by the keyboard using a combination of keys. In keyboards of such types, keys are labeled with symbols or functions, which can be carried out by pressing the keys.
The input of data in the electronic device from the keyboard is called keying-in, and in case of a mechanical or electric typewriter it is called typing. There is a certain technique for typing, which helps in avoiding the occupational disease. There are also the methods by which one can type the text without looking at the keyboard, and it is called touch typing.
A digital keyboard is a set of closely located keys with digits, meant for feeding the digits (for example, numbers). There are two different variants for the arrangement of digits on such keyboards.
In phones, those keyboards are used that have numerical values of the keys in increasing order from left to right and from top to bottom. Similar types of keyboard are used on door speakerphones and other gadgets of audio communication (for example, in the Skype software), and also in remote controls (for example, on TV remote controls).
In the keyboards of calculators, the numerical values of the keys increase from left to right and from bottom to top. Many computer keyboards have a block of keys on the right side that is a keyboard similar to that of a calculator.
Many modern computer keyboards, besides a standard set of one hundred and four keys, are equipped with additional keys (as a rule, of different sizes and forms) which are used for the simplified control of the basic functions of the computer, like:
Volume control: to raise and lower or to turn-on or turn-off the sound;
Handling the tray of a CD drive: to eject the disc or to insert the disc;
Controlling the audio-player: to play, pause, stop the playback, for forwarding or rewinding the audio recording, play the next or previous audio recording;
Managing the network resources of the computer: open the mail program, open the browser, show the homepage, go forward or back in the history of visited pages, open the search engine software;
For managing popular programs: open the calculator, open the file manager;
Controlling the status of windows of operating system: highlighting the window, close the window, move to the next or previous window;
Controlling the status of the computer: turn to hibernation mode, switch-over to sleep mode, turn-on the computer, turn-off the computer.
As many of these functions (volume control and playback of sound recordings, control of compact discs, etc.) are a part of multimedia, therefore such keyboards are often called “multimedia keyboards”.
Due to commercial reasons, the manufacturers and (or) suppliers of such keyboards prefer to intentionally equip them with such drivers, which considerably limit the functions of keys. For example, command keys for the playback of sound recordings are capable to operate only one type of audio playing software, and the network keys can operate only one browser from among the several that are available in the world. Also, the users are quite often deprived of any possibility to reprogram the functions of the majority of these additional keys (except maybe, a special group of “user keys”), and also they cannot define additional combinations of different keys (including the multimedia ones) and assign new special functions to them.
This shortcoming, however, can now easily be overcome by means of special universal drivers developed by independent programmers. One example of such a driver is Extra Keys Assigner 2.