User:Jwmh/Class Drafts/Module:hardware interface

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Module: hardware interface (mouse and keyboard)

This is about describing the mouse's and keyboard's physical layout/features/functions.

  • get Mac keyboard also
  • This is *not* about the effects it has on the software interface -- this is *only* about visually examining these devices. [....? Really? Is this even possible? Maybe this should go somewhere else, under UI / Software / Navigating....]

Different types of keyboards and mice


  • There is no 'universal' keyboard or mouse -- there are the most common ones, but there are many types.

However, almost all of them have certain features in common, so we'll go over those.

  • All mice can be used interchangably -- there is no "special" compatibility that makes them only work with certain computers; you can use them with any type of computer *software* -- as long as you physically have the right connector on the back to plug them into.
  • Same goes for keyboards, although some of the more 'special' buttons on keyboards get switched up a little bit between Macs and PCs.


  • Most mice that come with PC's (Microsoft- or Linux-based computers) have two buttons, plus a scroll wheel. On some mice, this wheel also can be "clicked," or pressed as a third (middle) button.
  • Conversely, most mice that come with new Macintosh (Apple) computers only have a single button. (Some of them also have a scroll wheel, that sometimes acts as a second button.)
  • However, in both cases, the 'primary' button performs the same primary action.

The second (and sometimes third) buttons perform different, "special" actions.

  • [advanced:

There are even fancier mice you can buy which have four or five or six buttons; usually there is software to go with these, that lets you assign more customized "special" actions to those buttons. ]


Again, there are different types of keyboards. However, there is far less distinction between Mac keyboards vs PC keyboards, than between mice.

  • Most keys on the keyboard, when you press them, do sometime directly -- like type a letter or number.
  • Other keys, like Shift, *don't* do anything directly -- instead, they *modify* other keys... changing what happens when you press them.
    • some of these "modifier" keys (like Shift) just make the output different -- so you type a capital letter, instead of a lowercase one.
    • other "modifier" keys (like Ctrl) are even more special -- when you press them in combination with another key, they don't actually "type" anything -- but instead, they send a signal to the system, telling it to *do* something (like reboot the whole computer).
      • fortunately, most of the "crazy" options (like rebooting an entire computer just by pressing some keys) have been taken away -- the computer programmers decided it was too easy to do accidentally, even for someone really familiar w/ the system, so they've mostly taken those sorts of options out.
      • even if you do accidentally reboot a machine, typically the worst that will happen is you might lose whatever you were in the middle of -- but you can't really *harm* a computer by pressing keys.
        • There are NO "wrong" keys to press! I promise. [needs to be a little more persuasive/supportive/encouraging than that...]

Extra keys:

  • Ctrl
  • Alt (on Macs, this is the Apple key, a.k.a. the "Command" key)
  • ESC
  • Arrow keys
  • Number keys
  • "Lock" keys:
    • Capslock
    • NumberLock
    • ScrollLock
  • Other special keys:
    • Insert (INS)
    • Delete (DEL)
    • Home / End
    • PgUp / PgDn
  • PrtScn
  • Pause/Break
  • Function keys (F#)


  • Top-row keys: laptop-keys and Mac-keys that adjust the hardware -- like the Volume, or the Screen Brightness
    • sometimes on laptops, these overlap w/ the function keys -- dual-purpose
      • then, depending on the keyboard, you sometimes have an extra "Fn" key, needed to activate the "alternate" functions of these keys
  • Windows/"Special" key (on Macs, this is replaced by the Option/Alt key)
  • Context/Alt-mouseclick key (some keyboards only; usually rightside of spacebar only)


  • Option/Alt (where the Windows-logo key is on PC keyboards; but will function as an Alt key if you hook it up to a Microsoft Windows box)
  • Command (where the Alt key is on PC keyboards)