Inside the Apple Chamber Where Keyboards Get That Distinctive Clickety-Clack

By Alissa Walker on at

Apple’s not been especially forthcoming over the years (UNDERSTATEMENT) but recently the company has been opening up. Case in point: Journalist Steven Levy went inside Apple’s HQ to see where the company prototypes hardware, including an acoustical lab for tuning the audible feedback from your fingers.

For Medium’s Backchannel, Levy writes about his experience visiting what’s called the Input Design Lab, where prototypes are built and tested for new keyboards, trackpads and mouses.

Although a lot of the story is about Apple’s devotion to ergonomics (they wire people’s fingers up while they type to monitor muscle fatigue) and industrial design (they use a MakerBot!), the coolest part is hearing how Magic Keyboards get that distinctive clickety-clack from John Ternus, VP for Mac, iPad, Ecosystem, and Audio Engineering and Kate Bergeron, VP for Ecosystem Products and Technologies:

“To get the right touch, you need the right sound,” says Ternus. The room is dominated by a huge anechoic (soundproof) chamber, the central part of a system Apple created to identify the micro-location of a sound. Apple used this extensively with the new Magic Keyboard. “Because of the structural difference between it and the one shipping, this particular keyboard required really intense monitoring and attention to make the mechanism great,” says Bergeron. “In one iteration, the mechanism had a sound we didn’t like. So we actually went in and changed the mechanism material to get to the place where the customer would like the sound.”

There’s plenty more on why your Apple accessories sound the way they do, from trackpad taps to mouse clicks. It made me appreciate the patter my hands make as they rake across the keys. These are tiny invisible elements of the overall package, but important details that make your Mac a Mac. [Read the whole story at Backchannel]