Getting by with Apple's not-quite-mechanical keyboard [Setups] | Cult of Mac

Getting by with Apple’s not-quite-mechanical keyboard [Setups]


That Apple keyboard looks mechanical but it's not.
That Apple keyboard looks mechanical but it's not.

Mechanical keyboards are all the rage for those who love the old-school typing feel and don’t mind the clackety-clacking noise. Today’s featured MacBook Pro and Studio Display setup features an old Apple A1048, which certainly looks the part of a mechanical keeb (but it’s not).

Read on the learn more about Apple’s past keyboards that are mechanical — and some that only look like it.

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MacBook Pro and Studio Display setup relies on Apple’s A1048 wired keyboard

Redditor Federico_Rosellini showcased the trim and productive setup in a post entitled, “How do you like old Apple keyboards?”

He runs a 16-inch M2 MacBook Pro with a Studio Display. His input devices are an Apple A1048 wired keyboard and a Magic Trackpad. He’s also got a 12.9-inch iPad Pro on an Alashi stand and AirPods Max headphones.

“I’ve actually been enjoying the mechanical feeling again,” he said about the keyboard. “I really don’t like Apple latest flat keyboards. My other keyboard is a Logitech MX Keys.”

“Low key (board) I’d really like a modern mechanical keyboard in the old Apple keyboard design like the one you have on your desk,” a commenter said.

“Apple should definitely make their own mechanical keyboard in addition to the chiclet ones,” said another.

“I’d kill for a mechanical keyboard with Touch ID,” someone else said.

“Love it, just love it. enjoy I use an old-style keyboard myself,” enthused another commenter. “Love the click and feel. I purchased a Tactile Pro for Mac a few years ago, and love it hands down.”

But not everyone agreed.

“Can’t stand them,” one person disagreed. “The Magic Keyboard has been a blessing for me. Still tactile but the level of effort require to push a key is near-zero, which makes it easy to type fast. As someone who used to be a musician, economy of motion is a big consideration for me.”

But it’s not actually a mechanical keyboard

But the thing is, though everyone excitedly talked about mechanical keebs, the Apple A1048 is not actually one of those. It’s membrane keyboard. And a bemused mechanical keyboard fan pointed that out.

“I find it amusing that you think the A1048 is ‘mechanical feeling,'” they said. “I admit that they look nice (as long as you never eat at the desk) but to me they are very mushy feeling, even for a membrane keyboard. I find them tiring to type on for long periods of time.”

“I have a couple of actual mechanical Apple keyboards (Apple Extended, Extended II, and Apple Standard Keyboard) which I much prefer to this one,” they continued. “I use the Drakware ADB2USB converter, they work great on modern Macs, and Orange ALPS switches are really sublime when they’re in good shape.”

“Pardon my ignorance,” Rosellini replied. “If not mechanical what are they?”

And here’s the expert’s reply describing exactly what the Apple A1048 is and what a mechanical keyboard is:

This Apple keyboard is a rubber dome keyboard. When you press down on the key, it depresses a rubber dome underneath, and eventually with enough pressure, the dome collapses, at which point the dome makes contact with the electrical circuit underneath, causing it to register the keystroke. There are no individual switches, there is just a big sheet of rubber with an electronic circuit underneath. These were very common from the mid 1990s onwards, and Apple’s first rubber dome design was the Apple Design Keyboard. The Apple Magic Keyboard is also a rubber dome, but it uses a more compact scissor switch design, rather than this bulky stem and slider design.

While the definition of what constitutes “mechanical” is sometimes a bit blurry, generally a “mechanical” keyboard will have a complete switch underneath each key, generally comprising of a spring, a stem, and some kind of contact mechanism to either close or open an electronic circuit and register a keystroke. The earlier Apple Extended Keyboard is a mechanical keyboard because each key contains its own switch, and there is an actual mechanism behind each key that provides the feedback to a keystroke, rather than a sheet of rubber.

So there you have it. And from the sound of the overall commentary, it seems like Apple would find an enthusiastic market if it started making actual mechanical keyboards again.

Want to learn more? Check out Cult of Mac‘s ranking of every keyboard Apple ever made, including mechanical keebs.

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If you would like to see your setup featured on Cult of Mac, send some high-res pictures to Please provide a detailed list of your equipment. Tell us what you like or dislike about your setup, and fill us in on any special touches, challenges and plans for new additions.

Apple Magic Keyboard with Touch ID

Apple's full-sized membrane keyboard comes with Touch ID and a numeric keypad. It's ideal for Apple silicon computers.

12/07/2023 12:28 am GMT


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