We are going to talk about Apple’s Butterfly Keyboard mechanism which is not to be confused with IBM’s Butterfly Keyboard or TrackWrite. While the latter was a foldout keyboard with two sliding triangular pieces, Apple’s butterfly keyboard is actually different from the traditional ones due to what lies beneath the keys.
Scissor vs. Butterfly mechanism
In the scissor mechanism, the keys are attached to the keyboard via two plastic pieces. These pieces interlock in a “scissor”-like fashion. They also have a key travel distance of about 2 mm. The keys are quiet and require less force to press. This mechanism is more popular in built-in keyboards on laptops.
However, the problem with this mechanism was the wobbling of keys along the sides. If you pressed a key away from the center, then the chance that the adjacent key is pressed increases. Apple-designed a new butterfly mechanism to increase precision in typing. The butterfly mechanism is wider than the scissor mechanism. Moreover, it has a single assembly and is made from a stiffer material. This, in turn, results in more stable and responsive keys. It also takes less vertical space, further slimming down the laptops.
The use of the butterfly mechanism has lead to more stable, more precise, and 40% thinner keys having 17% more surface area.
Anything new takes the time to be accepted by society. There are mixed reviews on Apple’s new butterfly keyboard. Some people find it smooth. While the majority of people don’t like the idea of pressing the key that has to travel just 0.5 mm. They don’t feel like they are typing.
Well, remember the transition from buttons to touch screens in phones? No matter how weird it may have felt at that time, but it did reduce the efforts in typing. Now, you just can’t imagine typing with buttons. You’ll end up with sore fingers. Who knows, Apple’s butterfly mechanism may be such a dramatic change in the world of keyboards or just another failed anecdote. It will be interesting to see if the resistance against the butterfly mechanism is just a reluctance to accept a change or plain inconvenience.
Butterfly mechanism in full detail on Patently Apple.