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Switches are the foundation on which nearly all electronic devices operate. Consisting of two or more conductive paths, they are designed to control a circuit. When a switch is activated, its respective circuit will open or close. While all switches work by controlling a circuit, though, there are many different types of switches, including tactile. What is a tactile switch exactly, and how does it differ from other switches?
A tactile switch is a type of switch that produces a physical sensation in response to its circuit being activated. Like all other switches, tactile switches control a circuit. If a tactile switch currently has an open circuit, pressing it will close the circuit. If it has a closed circuit, pressing it will open the circuit. With that said, tactile switches are distinguished from all other types of switches by producing a physical sensation when pressed.
Pressing a tactile switch will typically create a “snapping” sensation that you can physically feel with your finger. This “snapping” sensation is referred to as tactile feedback. It provides reassurance knowing that the electronic device identified your command. When you feel the tactile switch snap, you’ll know that you pressed it hard enough to activate the switch’s underlying circuit.
Advantages of Tactile Switches
A tactile switch is a type of switch that is used every day, but hardly ever seen. Hidden under every key of a computer keyboard, the tactile switch is small and thin, but features high reliability to ensure it will operate for years or even decades.
Tactile switches are small electromechanical devices that are designed to be mounted onto a printed circuit board (PCB).These products are compact with a low profile, meaning these do not rise high above the PCB, a vital attribute when considering the keyboards use for slim devices such as notebook computers.
Considering that space inside a keyboard is limited, the slim design means that tactile switches must compete with batteries, screens, and other components. To solve this, tactile switches are designed to be positioned side-by-side in a compact array, an attribute important for a keyboard.
The improvements made to the performance of smartphones and tablet computers make them a viable alternative to traditional computers. Tactile switches are small and convenient, suitable for touchscreens that utilize capacitive technology, which harness the electrical properties of the human body to function. For example, when a finger touches the screen, a tiny electrical charge is drawn to the point of contact, and the screen becomes a functioning capacitor. This in turn is detected as a push of a button.
Touchscreens are very thin, especially as there are no mechanical moving parts, and the technology is constantly. Improving to make them thinner still. With the constant improvement of touchscreens, why are manufacturers not making a computer keyboard using capacitive technology? The answer to that question is the feel of keyboard keys, sometimes described using the word haptics.
Despite the capabilities of touchscreens, these are hard and unforgiving. While there are many advantages of this smooth, flat surface - these are easy to clean and provide an effective compliment for high definition displays - these provide no feedback to the user, showing why the tactile switch is so useful.
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