Keyboard Patent Shows How Apple Could Make MacBooks Even Thinner

Apple is like the Vogue of the tech world. Not only are its models some of the best-looking and most fashionable — they also seem to just keep getting skinnier and skinnier.
A new patent application filing from the Cupertino company certainly doesn’t do anything to deter this trend. The patent, called
“Single Support Lever Keyboard Mechanism,” describes a few different ways Apple could trim some of the fat from existing notebook keyboards, making them more slender.
The keyboard design comes from a need to create computing products that are “attractive, smaller, lighter, and thinner while maintaining user functionality,” according to the patent application.
Current notebook keyboards often utilize a scissor-switch design, with two plastic support levers that slide outwards when a key is depressed (this is shown in Figure 1 in the illustration above). Another is the dome switch, where a key presses down on a rubber dome beneath it to connect two circuit-board traces.
Apple’s method would have the keyboard’s key caps held in place by a single rigid support lever made of stainless steel or aluminum, which could be implemented in a few different ways. Instead of collapsing horizontally, a single lever could rotate downwards when a key is pressed. Or, a more flexible material could be used as this lever so when a key is pressed, the key would just bend downwards slightly. Apple posits that with this method, the top portion of the key cap could be made of materials normally thought of as unsuitable for a keyboard, like wood, glass, or — wait for it — “polished meteorite.”
Is this going to be a MacBook for the 1%?
Keyboard implementations nowadays have a travel distance, how far the key moves when pressed, of 2 mm at a minimum, and up to 3.5 or 4 mm in some cases. Apple’s implementation would bring travel down to a tenth of that: .2 mm. If the keys don’t require as much space to be pressed, the entire chassis can get shaved a few crucial millimeters.
And with all those pesky ultrabooks trying to best the MacBook Air in the slimness department, I’m sure Apple’s eager to show them what’s what.