A new Apple patent released on Thursday aims to fix one of the persistent design flaws with Apple computers: the MacBook’s fragile keyboard.
As the spill-prone already know, sugary drinks pose a problem for MacBooks because they can make keys stick. And the problem isn’t just confined to liquids, as the patent itself points out: “Solid contaminants (such as dust, dirt, food crumbs, and the like) may lodge under keys, blocking electrical contacts, getting in the way of key movement, and so on.”
The patent, which was approved in September 2016, includes numerous designs for a keyboard built specifically to keep debris and spills from getting under your keys. While a minor consideration, the commitment to designing a better keyboard is the kind of decision that elevates one product over another. If Apple ends up releasing this keyboard, you will be free to snack away at your computer without the fear of sticky buttons.
The patent contains numerous distinct designs that could solve the problem. Here’s an inexhaustive list of the various mechanisms the patent includes as potential solutions:
Gaskets and membranes that prevent contaminants from getting under the keys
Brushes, wipers, and flaps that block up the empty space surrounding each key
Skirts, bands, and funnels that direct debris to cavities underneath the keys where it can’t interfere with key movement
Bellows that deploy gas to push dust away from vulnerable areas
Talk about being thorough! Apple’s researchers appear to have explored every conceivable means of protecting your keyboard, and it’s great that they are paying so much attention to minor design tweaks like this one. The keyboard is such a big part of your computer experience — if it’s well-designed, then you don’t even notice. But when it’s not working, it can make a laptop borderline unusable.
Of course, it’s only a patent, so it’s unclear if this seemingly perfect keyboard will come to fruition. This is just one of a slew of Apple patents that were published in recent weeks, including patents for a dual-screen macbook and a more durable iPhone charging cable.
One thing’s for sure: Apple always has new products in the works. Hopefully the impervious keyboard comes to market soon; only then can we snack and type without fear of a busted key.