The History of
Mechanical Keyboards

1867 and Earlier

Family History

Mechanical keyboards as we know them today are the result of hundreds of years of invention. The grandparent to the mechanical keyboard is the printing press (invented around 1439). Directly inspired by the printing press was the typewriter.

As with many inventions, the typewriter was developed incrementally by a number of independent inventors. Historians estimate that typewriters in various forms were invented as many as 52 times.

The first record of a typewriting device dates back to 1575 when Francesco Rampazzetto of Venice invented the scrittura tattile.


In 1867, the first typewriter to be commercially successful was patented. The Sholes & Glidden typewriter is also the origin of the QWERTY keyboard we still use today. Pressing adjoining keys in quick succession would jam the typewriter, so the QWERTY layout separated more frequent pairs of letters to avoid jamming.

In the decade since the introduction of the Sholes and Glidden, a thriving typewriter industry was developed. These typewriters standardized the layouts and some of the technology that would be used with computers in the future.

1867 - 1974

The Birth of the Personal Computer

Humans have been using devices to aid in computation for thousands of years, starting with our own fingers for counting! Since then, dozens of inventions have contributed to computers as we know them today.

Some notable moments in computer history include: 1833, Charles Babbage conceptualizes and invents the first mechanical computer; 1838, the United States Navy develops an electromechanical analog computer small enough to fit onboard a submarine, used to calculate the trigonometry of firing torpedos at moving targets; 1936, Alan Turing proposes the principles of a modern computer; 1946, ENIAC, the first fully-operation general-purpose computer is put into service at the University of Pennsylvania.

Up until 1956, computer users fed their programs into a computer using punched cards or paper tape. This changed when MIT researchers began experimenting with direct keyboard input into computers. Over the next few years, computer keyboards evolved to resemble the keyboards we still use today.

In 1974, "personal computers" officially hit the market. These computers were multi-purpose computers whose size, capabilities, and price made them feasible for personal use. Around this time it became the standard for computers to use a mouse, monitor, and keyboard.

1970s - 1990s

"A computer on every desk and in every home"

Although companies aimed to make the prices of computers more feasible for personal use, they were still expensive in the 1970s. Many early computers required users to assemble and solder components themselves.

Towards the end of the 1970s and in the early 1980s, mass-production of components led to lower costs and an explosion in affordable machines.


During this time, it also became the standard for computers to include a keyboard. Companies experimented with many different types of keyboard technologies including membrane, chiclet, ultrasonic, and Reed switches. Among these, buckling spring switches became extremely popular with the IBM Model F and later IBM Model M keyboards. These keyboards are still prized by many keyboard enthusiasts today.

During the mid-1980s, a German company called Cherry patented and began marketing their Cherry MX switches. These mechanical switches are the inspiration for almost all mechanical keyboard switches today.

Users cherished IBM's buckling spring switches and Cherry's mechanical switches for their reliability, tactile feedback, and unique feel.

1990s - 2005ish

Membrane Success and
Dome Domination

In the 1990s, more and more keyboards began to be membrane-based. In addition to being cheaper for manufacturers to produce, being lighter weight and slimmer allowed for their inclusion in the newest laptop generation.

One type of membrane keyboards are dome-switch keyboards. Dome-switches are a sort of hybrid between membrane keyboards and mechanical keyboards. Both dominated the mass market of keyboards and still are the most common keyboard technologies found in keyboards today.

Although these keyboards were cheaper, lighter, and more portable, they didn't quite satisfy all users. Many describe these keyboards to feel 'mushy' or 'spongey' as opposed the the more responsive and satisfying experience of a mechanical keyboard.

Whether it be because more people spent more time in front of a computer, the rising popularity of PC gaming, or some other reason, people began to crave the mechanical switches of the past.

2005ish - Today

The Resurgence of Mechanical Keyboards

Since the mid 2000s, mechanical keyboards have consistently increased in popularity. Alongside the durability, unique feel, and tactile and audible feedback, mechanical keyboards have become more and more customizable with new switches, keycaps, and layouts being introduced.

This resurgence of mechanical keyboards has attracted longtime enthusiasts, gamers, typists, and people simply interested in a nicer typing experience.


Today, mechanical keyboards are more popular than ever. In addition to the classic Cherry MX switches, many other companies have begun to produce similar switches. In addition to the dozens of switches available, customizable keycaps can make any keyboard unique. There are even artisan keycaps available which are often handmade and one-of-a-kind! From bluetooth to wired, wooden to metal, hot pink to classic cream, there's a mechanical keyboard for everyone!