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A baby keyboard is a miniature computer keyboard offering a more compact design for portability. Baby keyboards, more often called "mini" keyboards, usually have 84-89 keys with 101-104 key functionality, and are commonly 13 inches (33 centimeters) or less in length. By comparison standard keyboards run closer to 18 inches (46 cm) in length. Technically any keyboard with a very small footprint such as that of a baby keyboard, regardless of how many keys it has, is a "mini" or "baby keyboard".
In the early 1980s, IBM designed the first commercial PC/XT keyboards with 83 keys, though the footprint was comparable to standard sized keyboards today. IBM improved the layout of the keyboard and the shape of the keys with the release of the first PC/AT computer. This newer PC/AT keyboard looked similar to modern keyboards except the F-keys (function keys) remained grouped in two columns at the left of the board and there were still only 84 keys.
When IBM introduced the last PC/AT model in 1986, it also introduced the 101-key Enhanced keyboard — the standard model around which modern keyboards are based. This keyboard included F-keys along the top, added cursor keys, a numeric keypad and other feature keys.
Keyboard design eventually flourished into 104-key keyboards with special Windows function keys, multimedia keyboards, ergonomic keyboards, programmable keyboards, and keyboards with built-in trackballs or touchpads.
Baby keyboards answered a need for more portability, particularly in proliferating LAN environments. Since then, progressing technology has given them a place in boardrooms, lecture halls, courtrooms, and more. Network technicians, administrators, sales reps and executives on the go can easily slip a baby keyboard into a briefcase for carrying between office terminals, job sites, or mobile presentations. Some home users even prefer them simply because they take up less space on the desktop.
There is as much diversity among the different models of baby keyboards as can be found among standard keyboards. Layouts will vary from model to model, and there is no "right" design. Satisfaction is dependent on personal preference. There are multimedia baby keyboards, "hacker" style baby keyboards, programmable baby keyboards, and even illuminated baby keyboards. Most use USB or PS/2 interfaces.
A hybrid of a standard keyboard is a compact keyboard, which has 101-keys or more compressed into a footprint that varies around 16 inches (41 cm) in length — not small enough to be considered a baby keyboard.
Baby keyboards are widely available online and may be available at your local computer outlet as well. Prices start at about $30 (US).
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