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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Keyboards | Special Keyboard Features and Accessories ]

Keyboard Accessories

What's a peripheral device without accessories? Uh... Inexpensive? Easy to understand? ;^) All sarcasm aside, there are certain devices that have been created by various manufacturers to solve special concerns associated with keyboards. You may not ever use these devices but it's good to know they exist, if only so that if in the future you find yourself with a special need you remember... "hey, didn't I read somewhere that there was a doohickey that could do that...?" :^)

Without further ado, some common keyboard accessories:

  • Cable Extensions: Some keyboards come with very short cables, making it difficult to use the keyboard with some PCs, especially towers located on the floor. Cable extensions can inexpensively increase the distance between the keyboard and the PC. Be sure to get the right cable for your connector type (you can use adapters as well, but that increases the cost.)
  • Switchboxes: If you need to use more than one keyboard with a PC, you can use a switchbox. They are simple devices that are controlled by a manual, mechanical switch. You just select which device you want connected to the PC as you need it. Similarly, these boxes will let you use one keyboard with more than one PC, if they are connected the opposite way.
  • Multiplexers: Some companies make devices that will let you simultaneously use two keyboards with the same PC; these are like "automatic switchboxes", in a way. Some will also let you use a mouse and a keyboard in the same PS/2 connector, very useful for notebook PCs with a single PS/2 port.

A "Y-Mouse" multiplexer. This device plugs into a standard PS/2
port and allows you to run both a mouse and keyboard on the same port.

  • External Numeric Keypads: As I've mentioned, the numeric keypad on notebook PCs is somewhat of a joke. If you need a numeric keypad, you can purchase an external one. Why bother, instead of just getting a complete external keyboard? A good question... the only answer I have is that an external numeric keypad is much smaller and more suitable for traveling. (They usually are not much cheaper, because they are made in much smaller volume.)

Tip: An external numeric keypad can also be very helpful if you are left-handed, as all regular keyboards put the numeric keypad on the right side...

  • Skins and Covers: Over time, dirt and debris tend to fall between the keys of conventional keyboards, and the keys themselves get filthy. In an industrial environment, a keyboard can be ruined very quickly due to dirt and damage from contaminants. To avoid these problems, you can use keyboard skins, which are soft molded plastic membranes that fit over a keyboard. They protect the keys and the internals of the keyboard from dirt and damage, though some people find that they make typing feel rather strange. An alternative is a keyboard cover; these are made of hard plastic and fit over the keyboard to protect it when it is not in use. They can't be kept in place when the keyboard is being used, making them much more limited in effectiveness, but can be useful for PCs that are only used occasionally.

Next: Ergonomic Supports

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