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Crossing the boundary: analogue universe, digital worlds
Crossing the boundary: analogue universe, digital worlds

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4.2.4 Keyboards

Every computer comes with a keyboard. They are still the main way of taking text across the boundary into the computer. The one I'm using to type this course has 109 keys. Under each key is a pressure sensor that detects when the key has been pressed and sends an electronic signal into the computer. There, a small program called the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) translates the signal into the appropriate numeric code. Other software stores that code in a suitable place in the memory.

Exercise 9

List some of the drawbacks of keyboards.


  1. Few people actually like using keyboards.

  2. There has been concern recently about the damage they can cause to long-term users in the form of repetitive strain injury (RSI).

  3. It takes special training to get the best out of them.

  4. A keyboard is a pretty inefficient way of getting text into a computer. It is limited by the speed of its operator, and humans are slow and clunky compared with electronic machines. Computers have a phenomenal capacity to store information. A typical hard disk could store hundreds of full-length novels and encyclopaedias. But who is going to type all these in? And how long would it take?