back to article Good news: Apple designs a notebook keyboard that doesn't suck

An Apple patent application has surfaced that should give hope to frustrated MacBook owners everywhere. The Cupertino-based speaker vendor appears as the applicant on a US patent application published this week for a new keyboard design that is said to be resistant to liquids, dust, and crumbs. Titled "Ingress Prevention for …

  1. Slx

    Just as long as it also feels ok to type on. I can generally manage to avoid throwing cups of coffee over my MacBook, but I HATE typing on rubbery keyboards.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      I also use a plate when I'm eating dinner rather than a Macbook

      1. commonsense
        Joke

        There isn't enough space in Starbucks to accommodate both a Macbook and a plate, duh.

    2. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      On the other hand have you tried typing on their current MacBook pro keyboard? It's like trying to type using mouse buttons. It's maddening.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        I still have my stupidly-white and crumb magnet I-Mac keyboard because it's great to work with. YMMV because I know some people hate them. If this one ever breaks I do have a reconditioned Model M…

        1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

          Mines even older from a powermac g5. Even had an original mk1 iMac keyboard but that really was crap. The mouse was worse

          1. Ilsa Loving

            On the upside, if your powermac ever stops working you can still use the mouse to play ice hockey.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >>> On the other hand have you tried typing on their current MacBook pro keyboard? It's like trying to type using mouse buttons. It's maddening.

        Yeah, I love my old(ish) MacBook Pro and Air keyboards, but I've tried the new ones in store and been convinced there's a difference (ie, they're not as good).

      3. Vince

        Yes, and I find the 12" Macbook version of the keyboard is a total delight to use, and the one on my 15" Macbook Pro less so - because the keys are spaced apart more. If it had the same more compact design as I do on the 12" device I'd be very happy.

        1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
          Megaphone

          I know it shows my age, but even as a <ac user (personal/office machine) I still maintain that you can’t beat the old IBM ‘click click click’ keyboard - lifetime (provided you can finesse the interfaces) and I have four of them on different machines at the moment (the cluster is mainly managed from a Mac)

  2. Credas Silver badge

    Revolutionary

    Wow, a gasket to prevent crap from getting into moving parts - who but Apple could have come up with something so novel? I suppose this is one of those "... but in a keyboard"-type applications that seem to be so popular for US patents.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Revolutionary

      1) Good News: we have fixed the keyboard!

      2) Now about the rest of the computer ...

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Doesn't suck, but it might blow

      If you read the application, it isn't just a gasket but also suggests a membrane that allows air but not liquids/particles in so that when the key is depressed air is forced out and helps blow away the debris.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Doesn't suck, but it might blow

        You mean... a gasket like lots of similar things have because otherwise you're pushing against an hermetically sealed unit with pressurised air in it?

        Everyone else had the brains to make the air go out the bottom of the keyboard, though. Because a tiny hole which squirts air every time you hit a key is going to do precisely nothing but blow the dirt around the keyboard rather than blow it away. And anything vaguely sticky is going to gum it up. And once it's gummed up, where does the air go when you hit a key? The place every other keyboard sends it.

        It's trying to add novelty to something that people make millions of that work just fine every day, so that you can charge a fortune for it, and stop spare parts being made.

        You want a fancy keyboard? Do that thing that new laptops do where the "webcam" is really a key that pops up and faces you when you press it and blinds itself when you press it back in (ala the headlights on sports cars, catseyes, etc.). That is infinitely more useful to me than any kind of new untested type of keyboard layer which stops me having to go "PFFFttt" about once a year or so and solving the problem they describe.

      2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Doesn't suck, but it might blow

        when the key is depressed air is forced out

        Apple has invented the one-way valve!

      3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Doesn't suck, but it might blow

        @DougS

        ...A Blow Jobs

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Revolutionary

      "We can't be bothered to make or sell an ingress-proof keyboard, nor to do the necessary R&D to turn this into a working product. However if anybody ever does, we want to be able to squeeze them dry, because WE WROTE IT DOWN FIRST"

      (To me, the second diagram looks just like a membrane keyboard, with a hard keytop attached)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Revolutionary

        "However if anybody ever does, we want to be able to squeeze them dry, because WE WROTE IT DOWN FIRST"

        It really is about time that patents were invalidated after a relatively short time unless the holder is able to demonstrated either a product, a prototype or evidence they are working on it in a realistic fashion. No one should be allowed to hold unused speculative patents purely on the basis that someone else might want to actually build the things bit then have to pay licence fees to some troll.

  3. TRT Silver badge

    Surprised

    That they haven't perfected the haptic feedback as used on the magic trackpad to create a solid state keyboard yet.

    1. returnmyjedi

      Re: Surprised

      Lenovo beat them to it with their surprisingly pleasant (more so than my work MacBook Pro at least) Halo keyboard.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Re: Surprised

        Use both and I really hate the Halo keyboard.

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Surprised

        Does it have a truly haptic feel that replicates a key click under your finger, but not under other fingers so that the touch typist wouldn't be able to distinguish it from a moving key? I've never used one.

  4. Mrs Doyles Teacup

    "The Cupertino-based speaker vendor..."

    Bahaha...never change el Reg.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Prior art

    Spectrum keyboard for one and I'm sure that wasn't the first to incorporate a membrane.

    1. John70

      Re: Prior art

      Or even a ZX81

      1. steelpillow Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Prior art

        Science of Cambridge Mk 14, back in 1977. Sinclair, Francis & Altwasser's bolt-hole while they brewed up the ZX 80.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Prior art

          Ah, but this is the first for Apple so they get the patent.

        2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Prior art

          You sure about the MK14? Mine has metal 'click' contacts (though it's quite likely I have changed them sometime forty years ago).

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Prior art

      A key thingy with a bit of rubber and a key on top, isn't that sort of like the Logitech K310?

      I would imagine there are also various industrial keyboards that work in a similar manner for dusty/wet/random gunk environments.

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: Prior art

        I used to call them keyboard condoms back in the '80s, transparent rubberish overlay that snugly fit the keyboard. Much simpler and likely works better.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Prior art

          Rubber keyboard covers are still available but when the fast food chain I do IT for used them even on basic Keytronic's and Logitech keyboards they were stupendously expensive. Each cover fitted well only on the specific keyboard model. And when the covers got dirty they were hard to clean because of the nooks and crannies within it. And every once in a while the keyboard manufacturers moved the keys ever so slightly and hopefully new covers would be available...

          Some 15 years ago those restaurants started to roll basic kitchen cellophane over the keyboard and replacing it as necessary. Cellophane of course won't work with laptops that well...

          1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

            Re: Prior art

            "Rubber keyboard covers"

            My mate's sister used to work in a pub, and as luck would have it, it was the heavy metal / biker bar me and he used to drink in. Anywho, one day we're propping up the bar, and some sales guy (oh, this was like, 30+ years ago) enters, opens a suitcase, and tries to sell her various products, one of which was a rubber keyboard cover 'to stop people from catching AIDS'.

            So I piped up 'How is that suppose to work' and he whipped it out, popped it on the till, and says 'Look, you aren't touching the keys anymore so you can't transfer the AIDS germs.' I laughed out loud, called him a dumb twat, and pointed out that it doesn't matter that you aren't touching the keys, if everyone is touching the same rubber cover. Clearly he wasn't very bright because this was genuinely a lightbulb moment for him, the poor sap had actually believed in the product. Not that keyboards were the method of transfer for HIV anyway, but he ran off before I got to explain that.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Prior art

      Spectrum keyboard for one and I'm sure that wasn't the first to incorporate a membrane

      I've seen lots of these (or similar?) kb's for PC's. Since this is a first for Apple, well... they figure they invented it cause Apple is special.

  6. Teiwaz Silver badge

    They'd only ruin it by putting some weird-ass function-key replacement.

    Only really amazing if they also manage backlights that last the lifetime of the device.

    1. Slx

      They generally have done on my Macs.

  7. Slx

    I just wish they hadn't gotten rid of MagSafe! That was genuinely very useful and I haven't found any USB-C adaptor / cable approach that works quite as well.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      MagSafe

      https://the-gadgeteer.com/2018/03/03/missing-the-magsafe-on-your-usb-c-macbook-pro/

      Can't vouch for them. Don't know if they're available in UK.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Search for magC

      Looks a pretty decent, and very compact, solution

    3. MrT

      I agree - very easy to use. Although at the time I had one of the old all-white Mac laptops my son was about 2 and loved the electric tingle that he got putting the power lead in his mouth. Turns out the MagSafe connector was not rust-proof, which might not have been something high on the spec sheet when it was designed...!

  8. LeedsMonkey

    Or just make a proper keyboard and stop making everything so thin...

    All this nonsense has started because the keyboard is just too thin. It's an absolute pile of shite to type on, but why cares if it looks cool eh? I waited for a replacemnt for my 2012 rMBP and when the replacement was announced I just bought a ThinkPad. Limited to 16GB RAM, only 3 useable ports (need one for the charger) a dreadful keyboard and that crappy touch bar, the current MBP would cost me around £4k. Plus another £200+ in dongles! No thanks Apple.

    Thankfully Lenovo have stopped trying to be Apple, at least with their ThinkPads anyway. I wish more manufacturers would do this - realise the strengths in their own products and build on that. This would be even better if Lenovo to moved away from the chicklet style keyboards and back to the ones they had in the 90's. Yes they were chunky, but they were a joy to type on.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Or just make a proper keyboard and stop making everything so thin...

      Typing? On a *computer*? How terribly 1990's, darlings!

      1. Barry Rueger Silver badge

        Re: Or just make a proper keyboard and stop making everything so thin...

        Typing? On a *computer*? How terribly 1990's, darlings!

        Well, if by "typing" you mean "selecting the perfect emoji" for that corporate prospectus.

        Oh, sorry, it's an Apple product - Animoji.

      2. onefang Silver badge

        Re: Or just make a proper keyboard and stop making everything so thin...

        "Typing? On a *computer*? How terribly 1990's, darlings!"

        I've been typing on computers since the '70s. I'm sure someone here has been doing it for longer. There was even an Apple computer with a keyboard that long ago.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Or just make a proper keyboard and stop making everything so thin...

      The 2012 rMBP only has 2 usable ports then, unless you count the thunderbolt 1 ports, but given the lack of peripherals for that you can’t really.

      The 2016/2017 have 4 usable ports. If I need power I’m probably at a desk, which then has a monitor plugged in which also provides power, or a dock/hub which also provides power, or an eGPU which also provides power, or an external drive array which also provides power.... If I’m not at a desk chances are there is no external power source available or I would be ok on battery anyway, and highly unlikely to be plugging in that many peripherals.

      Keyboard is different, not bad, once used to it faster to type on. Touch Bar? No idea how anyone accidentally touches it when typing, doesn’t cause any problems for me and provides some nice shortcuts in various applications.

    3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Or just make a proper keyboard and stop making everything so thin...

      I've got a 2015 rMBP and I'll stick to using proper keyboards for the foreseeable future (for the record I use it 95% of the time on a desk mainly with ja 15 year old full size proper keyed Apple keyboard. Which now will need an adapter to work on newer machines. Because reasons...)

    4. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      Re: Or just make a proper keyboard and stop making everything so thin...

      I waited eagerly for the new MBPs to come out as well. Fortunately, I went to Best Buy and tried typing on the "butterfly" keyboard before ordering. What a disappointment. I couldn't imagine why anyone would drop that much cash on a machine with such a crap keyboard.

      I despise Windows 10, so ended up getting a refurb 2015 i7 MBP instead. Quite a bit cheaper than the new ones, and the slight step-down in power isn't an issue for my application. The keyboard is great; I make way fewer typing mistake on the MBP than I did on the Lenovo that it replaced.

  9. elvisimprsntr

    PSA Tip

    Stop eating food and drinking sugar filled beverages while at your computer. Problem solved.

    You might actually loose some weight and lower your diabetes risk.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PSA Tip

      That's some sound advice, I'm sure there is literally no one on the planet that doesn't know that.

      Here's the kicker, the reason people are tuned to sugar is because it is in nearly everything, you are brought up on it, you class it as a treat and a reward. Then you are told to cut out fats to lose weight.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PSA Tip

        But don't forget your brain is so fucked with sugar by rewiring itself, any attempt to keep away is like trying to breathe without oxygen. Little mousey brain feels like it's getting punished since you took away its reward.

        Yes, I'm one of those with a little rewired mousey brain who finds it hard to keep away.

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: PSA Tip

          +1

          Sugar high = epic

          Sugar crash ... not so much

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does it protect against fluids? If so I can see that helping with iPhone launches.

  11. Milton Silver badge

    And the patentable new idea is ...

    And the patentable new idea is ... nowhere to be seen: amazing!

    For at least 147 years inventors have solved the "ingress of unwanted shyte" problem by putting gaskets, rubbers, membranes, boots, skirts and whatever other flexible enclosures come to mind, around delicate things that work best when not impeded by Straying Crappe. This has included parts of steam engines, printing presses, guns, pacemakers, sewing machines, almost every part of an automobile, submarines, dildoes, computers, vacuum cleaners, battlefield radios, blurping vats, headphones, centrifuges, children's toys, calculators, greenhouse instrumentation, turbines, cameras, televisions, window frames, lighthouses, ruggedised thises and thats, spaceships, jumbo jets, racing yachts, wristwatches, lawn sprinklers and pressure cookers ... and a list far too long for anyone here to want to read.

    Now some chancer at Apple has applied the notion to a keyboard, adding zero value in terms of thinking, innovation, function or implementation, and some supreme, astounding fathead of a patent examiner has actually said "Yeah, that's new"? Did the incredibly clever, Einstein-level invention of the Rounded Corner™ give someone ideas?

    I keep hearing that the US is fixing its ludicrously error-prone, frankly laughably inept and unfit-for-purpose patent system ... and seeing zero evidence that this is in any way true.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And the patentable new idea is ...

      Milton,

      Don't hold back .... tell us what you really feel !!! :) :)

      Agree with your 'Rant' totally including the pseudo-Old English 'Crappe' :)

      It appears that Apple has brainwashed the USPO to react to the 'Apple' name and NOT the actual patent.

      Wealth & influence is the only thing that matters in the US of A now.

      Anything is allowed if you can back it up with Money !!!

      Politics does not matter as at the end of the day the 'people that have' simply 'buy' the results they want from either of the main parties.

      Voters are there to pretend that they have a Democracy but the same core groups decide the policies & direction for the country.

      Trump is a temporary blip that will be 'Corrected' in due course, and will be a footnote in History !!!

      But will be the 'Bestest' footnote there has ever been, as he will tell us. !!! :) ;)

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: And the patentable new idea is ...

        "Trump is a temporary blip that will be 'Corrected' in due course, and will be a footnote in History !!!

        "But will be the 'Bestest' footnote there has ever been, as he will tell us. !!! :) ;)"

        Trump will be the yuuugest footnote in history!!!

    2. shedied

      Re: And the patentable new idea is ...

      The US patent office 'just works'...if your company name is Apple. So it must be fine for everyone, then.

      Really, I prefer the IBM solution: holes so coffee spills will simply drain the scaldingly hot liquid through to your nether regions. Have crumbs? Why fix the keyboard, when it's built bulletproof tough that a 2.5 horsepower vacuum can suck all those crumbs and chicken wing bones too that have been lodged in there even way before lenovo wet-dreamed of owning the Thinkpad brand.

  12. Bad Beaver

    The last time Apple notebooks had decent keyboards

    ... was back when those machines were called Powerbooks.

  13. Duffy Moon

    A keyboard that doesn't suck

    would be called a mechanical keyboard.

    1. Baudwalk

      Re: A keyboard that doesn't suck

      >>>would be called a mechanical keyboard.<<<

      And have an orthogonal layout.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better solution

    How about making the keys removable so that you can clean out the crud that gathers underneath them?

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    It's just a simple laptop keyboard, right?

    Order a brand new identical replacement keyboard off eBay for $35, free shipping. Then, once it arrives, it takes just a few minutes with a simple screwdriver to swap it in, right? Budda boom, budda bing, done.

    Toss the old one in the junk bin in case new keycaps are ever required.

    What could possibly be wrong with this approach?

    Oh, yeah. Apple. I forgot. Sorry.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: It's just a simple laptop keyboard, right?

      My last (HP dv6) keyboard, from which I now type, cost under $9, including delivery that took about 4 days. It's not and IBM PC or Telex 3270 keyboard, but except for the crappy layout that puts the "calculator" key where the left control key belongs, it's decent, with definite touch feedback but no audible click.

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: It's just a simple laptop keyboard, right?

        "My last (HP dv6) keyboard, from which I now type, cost under $9, including delivery that took about 4 days."

        You can buy keyboards from supermarkets for $9, half hour delivery if I walk there and back.

  16. Richard 12 Silver badge

    I've owned at least two different keyboards like this

    Both more than ten years old - the most recent was branded "keyboard for life" or something like that, and carried a 20 year new-for-old replacement warranty should it die for any reason.

    Of course I lost it, turns out that wasn't covered.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hmmmm, but what about the batteries ?

  18. John Savard Silver badge

    Not So Fast

    I notice that the illustration of the actual key mechanism, as opposed to the debris barrier, is not of a normal scissors switch, as is often used in laptops and some Mac keyboards, but of a mechanism that doesn't seem to actually have the ability to move down when one presses the key.

    No doubt that is only to avoid putting irrelevant detail in a patent on a specific item, which, incidentally, may be invalidated by a lot of prior art (such as the IBM beam spring keyboards on such things as their 3277 display station, which had quite elaborate barriers against debris) however.

  19. Ambivalous Crowboard

    Great. But before that,

    If you could start shipping keyboards with a UK layout to your UK customers, that'd be excellent.

    Perhaps also take a look at all the people posting on the Apple support forums asking where the hash key is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great. But before that,

      But you only need the letters a, e, l and p. Why waste space on buttons nobody uses?

  20. onefang Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    Two pages of commentarding, and no one has used the obvious icon?

  21. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ
    Coffee/keyboard

    no way.... not now not ever..

    Apple have a massive market where they sell new computers to people that have screwed up the computer with the lightest of water ingress... I have seen macbooks damaged because if condensation.....

    £750 to repair a £700 computer.... they sell you a £1200 computer for £1080....

    there's not a chance in hell they will bring this to market,,,, but they will make sure it costs others too much to make a 3rd party keyboard replacement....

  22. Korev Silver badge
    Holmes

    "Apple designs a notebook keyboard that doesn't suck"

    You mean they've put the " on the 2 on their UK keyboards at last?

  23. Zippy's Sausage Factory

    Apple used to make great keyboards

    They had wires on them. They discontinued them recently.

    Unfortunately the keyboard controllers in them were prone to dying. Which means next I might have to find a ewent keyboard from somewhere as that's one of the few I've ever found that I prefer typing on more.

    (My favourite was a 1980s Compaq PS/2 keyboard, which alas died a spectacular death when a power spike took out my motherboard, CPU and graphics card while the PC was turned off. Strangely, however, the HDD, old faithful Taiwanese NE2000 clone and PCI USB card were all fine...)

  24. Semper Phoenix
    FAIL

    Wot, no backspace?

    Is everyone exhausted from belabouring Cupertino re the whole delete / backspace issue, also?!

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