The Days of Physical Keyboards are Numbered

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

As we continue to dive deeper and deeper into this post-PC world, I find myself thinking more about what things we used to find essential about computers that are being tossed aside as we hurdle towards the future. With this week’s news that Apple is working on a keyboard with literally no moving parts, it hit me like a ton of bricks: of course physical keyboards are on the way out. Just stay with me though and let me explain.

Every new tech device, no matter how brilliant, will inevitably look dated 10+ years down the road. For example, here’s a laptop from 21 years ago as bragged about by Chandler on Friends:

We look at that computer today and think, “wow, that looks old!” In my eyes it’s the device thickness, the terrible screen, and the woefully outdated specs leave no doubt that this is a computer from loooong ago. So when I look at computers around me today, what do I think is going to seem the most dated in 20 more years? I think physical keyboards are going to be one o the big things.

But why? Can’t was all agree that a good click keyboard is better than a touchscreen keyboard? Well no, actually. I’m 29, which means that I’m young enough to adapt change, but old enough that I grew up in the PC revolution before touch screen computers and smartphones were a thing. Heck, I didn’t own a cell phone at all until I was 15 years old! I do more and more work on my iPad, but I still prefer to sit down at my desktop computer and use my Das Keyboard. But if you look at younger people, they generally prefer software keyboards to physical ones.

Physical keyboards have already been completely eradicated from smartphones, as people have spoken with their wallets. I remember early iPhone reviews where the reviewer would lament the fact that the iPhone didn’t have a physical keyboard and was much harder to type on than a Blackberry. But those days are long gone and the number of people who wish their smartphones had a physical keyboard has diminished to nearly zero. Software won. Why do we look at desktop keyboards and think that they are any different?

I suspect the young people of 2040 will look at the computers we use today, and specifically the keyboards we use today and scoff.

“It’s so loud!”

“It’s so ugly!”

“It’s huge!”

“They add a ton of moving parts to the computer and can break!”

“Dirt and food just get under the keys and you can never get it out!”

Don’t worry if you love a “real keyboard” though, I’m sure they will be around for a long, long time. I just think that the option of buying a laptop with traditional keys will be quite rare, and finding a teenager who prefers them over a full touch screen will be even more so. The future is a little scary, but don’t worry, it’s better on the other end.