Apple patent shows off retractable MacBook keyboard

A retractable keyboard could mean a MacBook that's thinner yet still offers a full-size keyboard for comfortable typing.

Published Fri, Jun 26 2020 10:05 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 11:43 AM CST

Apple wants to continue the design trend of thinner laptops in the coming years. The challenge is as hardware gains performance, it also starts to make more heat requiring more robust cooling systems. The desire for comfortable typing also requires better keyboards. The result is the need for thicker machines.

Apple patent shows off retractable MacBook keyboard 01 |

Apple has a new method that it is reportedly working on that will make future MacBooks thinner. It's not a new cooling system; it's said to be a new retractable keyboard. The retractable keyboard is an attempt by Apple to balance the customer's need for something they can type on with the need for thinness.

The keyboard will reportedly retract into the MacBook Pro enclosure. The tip of the retractable keyboard comes from a patent for "Retractable Keyboards" that was filed by Apple. Apple isn't first in looking to build retractable keyboards. IBM had a retractable keyboard in the past that would expand out of the sides of the laptop when the lid was opened.

In IBM's case, the keyboard opened into a desktop-size unit making typing more comfortable and easy. The patent says that Apple is looking at "selectively reducing the thickness of a keyboard by selectively retracting or extending the keys of the keyboard relative to an internal keyboard mounting or support layer." The patent also outlines a system that would have "movable mechanical or magnetic linkage elements" that would be able to reposition key stabilizers between different relative positions.

Apple also notes that the stabilizers could be scissor mechanisms, butterfly mechanisms, or similar devices. The use of the word "butterfly" may give some MacBook users an uneasy feeling after the poor reception and failures of Apple's butterfly keyboards in the past. We assume the manufacturer would want nothing to do with more keyboard failures and would use a design that is improved. Apple updated its 13-inch MacBook Pro with a new keyboard not long ago.

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Shane is a long time technology writer who has been writing full time for over a decade. Shane will cover all sorts of news for TweakTown including tech and other topics. When not writing about all things geeky, he can be found at the track teaching noobs how to race cars.

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