The mechanical keyboards at Computex prove Steve Jobs was wrong about the PC

You’re almost guaranteed to experience déjà vu while wandering the halls of Computex. Enter, and a row of mechanical keyboards will greet you. Browse to the next hall – and you’ll see more. Turning a corner, yet more appear. At times, two or three booths sit side-by-side, keyboards glistening under harsh showfloor lamps.

The seemingly endless line-up of keyboards is amusing, but it’s no joke. The companies behind these keyboards are seeing serious success. And that success says a lot about the PC’s continued relevance.

The mechanical key’s return to fame

In June of 2010, Steve Jobs famously predicted the rise of a “post-PC” era during an interview at D8. He believed the magic of touch would drive an exodus away from bulky, complex computers. In his opinion, the PC would soon be replaced by more intuitive devices, like tablets.

But something else happened in 2010, something directly opposed to Jobs’ thinking. The mechanical keyboard market caught fire.

Today, a high schooler can put out more text in an hour than a 12th-century monk could in a year.

Once the only type of keyboard available, mechanical keyboards were driven virtually extinct by rubber dome keyboards through the late 90s. Even diehard geeks moved on, won over by the budget pricing rubber domes allowed.

It’s hard to definitely call any moment the point of ignition, but I personally view it as Razer’s introduction of the Blackwidow X. Designed for gamers, and marketed by a well-known brand, the Blackwidow reminded geeks that a keyboard can be awesome.

Keyboard sales have skyrocketed ever since. Demand has become so high, in fact, that Cherry – a mechanical key manufacturer whose hardware can be found in most top models – can’t keep up. I ran into  Michael Schmid, the company’s head of PR, on the show floor. He told me the company has a “supply problem.” The mechanical keyboard’s comeback caught the company as unaware as it did everyone else, and Cherry can’t fulfill demand.

Keyboard magic

Jobs’ belief in the post-PC era continues to hold sway to this day, and it’s true that the volume of PCs sold has gone down in recent years. Yet it’s also undeniable that mechanical keyboards are a hit. Geeks can’t get enough of them despite pricing that often reaches well above $100. How can these trends co-exist?

They can’t.

While brilliant, Jobs had something in common with all smart people. He made mistakes. And as I roamed the halls of Computex, viewing keyboard after keyboard after keyboard, it was clear that his belief in the post-PC era was one of them.

Mechanical keyboards computex
Matt Smith/Digital Trends
Matt Smith/Digital Trends

I could talk about market forces, the success of high-end PC hardware despite the general downturn, and the cultivation of niche products in an ever-growing universe of tech. These avenues could lead to some convincing conclusions, to the PC’s favor.

But I think Jobs’ mistake was more fundamental. Enthralled by his own love of touch, he failed to remember that some people – a lot of people – love to sit down at a PC and mash keys.

The humble keyboard remains the quickest and most efficient way to communicate quickly with a computer. Once you’ve learned to use it, you can navigate, access, or input data more quickly than with any tool ever crafted in the history of mankind. A high schooler can use it to put out more text in an hour than a 12th-century monk could manage in a year.

That’s the magic of a good keyboard. That’s why the halls of Computex are filled with keyboards. And that’s why Jobs was wrong to think the PC is going anywhere, anytime soon.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.


The dramatic BlackBerry Key2 Red Edition is now available in the U.S.

BlackBerry's Key2 is likely to be the best keyboard-equipped phone in 2019, with a modern look, some powerful specs, and totally revamped features. Here's everything you need to know about it.

The number pad on HP’s Chromebook 15 makes spreadsheet work a breeze

HP's Chromebook 15 comes with a 15.6-inch display, a metal keyboard deck with full-size keys, and a dedicated number pad, making it the second Chromebook model, following Acer's Chromebook 715, to be suited for spreadsheet work.

These Xbox One games will let you use your trusty mouse and keyboard

A select number of Xbox One games support mouse and keyboard control schemes, and more are being added in future updates. Here are all the Xbox One games that support mouse and keyboard.

Play The Sims 4 the way it was meant to be played using a keyboard and mouse

The Sims 4 recently added keyboard and mouse support on Xbox One and PS4, giving players the chance to experience the game as it was designed. Here is how to use keyboard and mouse in The Sims 4.

Worried about your online privacy? We tested the best VPN services

Browsing the web can be less secure than most users would hope. If that concerns you, a virtual private network — aka a VPN — is a decent solution. Check out a few of the best VPN services on the market.

Gaming on a laptop has never been better. These are your best options

Gaming desktops are powerful, but they tie you down to your desk. For those of us who prefer a more mobile experience, here are the best gaming laptops on the market, ranging from budget machines to maxed-out, wallet-emptying PCs.

AMD’s 2020 Ryzen CPUs could have a big boost in power efficiency

The sequel to AMD's Zen 2-based Ryzen 3000 CPUs is slated for a 2020 release and when it arrives, could leverage the new Zen 3 architecture to deliver impressive gains to performance and power efficiency.

Here's how you can download the best free music players for your Mac

Tired of your Mac's default music player? Take a look at our picks for the best free music players available for your Apple rig. Whether you're a casual listener or an audiophile, you're sure to find something that fits your needs here.

Want to make calls across the internet for less? Try these great VOIP services

Voice over IP services are getting more and more popular, but there are still a few that stand above the pack. In this guide, we'll give you a few options for the best VOIP services for home and business users.

Transform into the ultimate leader with our tips and tricks for Civilization 6

Civilization VI offers both series veterans and total newcomers a lot to chew on from the get-go. Here are some essential starting tips to help you master the game's many intricacies.

The iPhone’s Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts could land on Macs this year

For its desktop computers, it appears that Apple may continue to draw from the iPhone for inspiration. iOS 12 features, like Screen Time and Siri Shortcuts, are believed to be making their way to MacOS this year at WWDC in June.

Dell slashes prices of XPS 13 and Alienware 17 laptops in latest promo

Dell's latest promotion will score you big savings on the XPS 13 or the Alienware 17. The stylish XPS 13's discount is for $430, and only the rose gold model is on sale, while gamers who choose the Alienware 17 will save $860.

Lenovo’s Yoga C930 sale drops a $650 discount on its 2TB SSD laptop

Lenovo is offering one of its 2-in-1 laptops at a $650 discount. This Lenovo Yoga C930 laptop comes with a 2TB solid-state drive, a digital pen, a fingerprint reader, and a Dolby Atmos sound bar.

You won't want to miss these deals on some of the best laptops around

Whether you need a new laptop for school or work or you're just doing some post-holiday shopping, we have you covered: These are the best laptop deals going right now, from discounted MacBooks to on-the-go gaming PCs.