Anyone who has sat at a computer pounding away on the keyboard for hours knows that if you eat while you type, crumbs are destined to get under the keys. However, Apple apparently wants to change that, as it has filed a patent for a crumb-proof keyboard with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, offering up two possible design ideas.
One of the two ideas for a crumb-proof keyboard is to make sure that the gaps between the keys are sealed completely to keep dust, liquid or any other tiny particles from getting in between them. Apple suggests the use of “membranes or gaskets” around each of the keys to keep “contaminants” from getting under the keys. Other ideas for keeping crumbs out of the keyboard include “brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps around key caps” or “funnels, skirts, bands, or other guard structures.” The iPhone maker also suggests the use of a sort of bellows to blow air and push crumbs back out from under the keys.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that there will ever be a crumb-proof keyboard from Apple, as the company tends to patent lots of technology that it never ends up using, just like every other tech giant. However, the iPhone maker certainly has plenty of motivation to build such a keyboard onto its MacBook.
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Apple always favors form over function, and a big part of the company’s design trends over the years has been slimming its devices down. In the case of the MacBook, all that slimming and trimming has taken space out of the keyboard. It might not seem like a big deal because we’re talking about millimeters here, but apparently, plenty of MacBook users have been having serious problems with the keyboard on it because of the lack of space.
The keyboards on the MacBook and MacBook Pro are very tightly packed in, but there’s still just enough room for dust or crumbs to get between the keys. While you might think that packing the keys together tightly would help keep crumbs out, the result for many users has been total keyboard failure. With so little space left underneath the keys, it doesn’t take a very big particle to keep the keys from working. Obviously, if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on a laptop, you wouldn’t want something as small as a crumb to break it.
This is a big enough problem that Apple felt it necessary to release detailed instructions about how to get crumbs out from underneath the keyboard on the MacBook. The process involves holding the laptop at a 75-degree angle and then rotating it while spraying it with a can of compressed air. CNET even put together a guide for MacBook users who need to perform an emergency procedure on their laptop to get a key unstuck, but not everyone is successful using that method. Apple’s MacBook is so notorious for sticky keys that 9to5 Mac uncovered a song written by Jonathan Mann about the problem late last year.
Although Apple is expected to release new MacBooks this year, it seems doubtful that we can expect them to have the crumb-proof keyboard described in this patent. It can take years for patented tech to find its way into real products, if at all.