If you aren’t overly familiar with the components of your most prized technological gadgets, you might not actually know what a membrane switch is. But whether you associate its name with this pivotal component or not, you’ve probably used one at least a few times already today. In today’s post, we’ll give a basic introduction to membrane switches and how you unknowingly benefit from membrane switch designs on a near-constant basis.

What Is a Membrane Switch?

In its most basic terms, a membrane switch functions as an electrical component that turns a circuit on or off. It provides a user interface that utilizes tactile switches (which we think of as “buttons”) to send and perform desired commands. You might think of them as the earliest version of a touchscreen.
We’ve been using membrane switches since the early 1980s, when they were first introduced in home computers. This same technology has made its way into countless consumer devices since. Here are 10 ways you may be using membrane switches without even realizing it.

10 Ways We Use Membrane Switches Every Day

  1. Microwaves: You probably think nothing of heating up a plate of leftovers for 60 seconds or so. But the reason you’re able to enjoy that hot food is thanks to your microwave’s membrane switch design. When you press the touchpad, you’re actually using a membrane switch!
  2. Air Conditioners: If you rely on a window air conditioning unit to keep you cool in the summertime, you might very well have a membrane switch manufacturer to thank. You’re able to keep the space comfortable because that membrane switch is doing its job.
  3. TV Remotes: And speaking of remotes, you’re able to change the channel or raise the volume in comfort due to membrane switch technology. In the past, people actually had to get off the couch to adjust the dial. But now, you can stay in one place and change channels without effort.
  4. Hot Tubs: When you’ve got sore muscles or simply want a great way to relax, there’s nothing better than getting in the hot tub. And if you need to change the temperature or turn on the jets, you probably go straight to the tub’s control panel — also known as a membrane switch. This waterproof piece of technology can even allow you to turn on some ambient lighting when it gets dark out.
  5. Dishwashers: Most people don’t prefer to wash dishes by hand if they have another option at their disposal. When you schedule your dishwashing cycle for the evening, that’s all due to membrane switch design. Never again will you have to scrub with a sponge.
  6. Calculators: You may have a built-in calculator on your phone, but we bet those still aren’t allowed in math class. You probably relied on a calculator to perform at least some of the equations for you. That device is equipped with a membrane switch that sends messages between your fingers and the other components within.
  7. Gas Station Pumps: Gas station pumps usually have at least one area devoted to membrane switches. It’s often the spot where you select which type of fuel you want. Some pumps may also have membrane switches installed in the credit card reader.
  8. Credit Card Reader: As we stated above, you’ve probably used membrane switches on modern credit card readers in convenience stores, grocery stores, and retail locations. You may use these switches to indicate whether you want cash back from your transaction and to confirm the payment amount, too.
  9. Airplanes: Some airline carriers have in-flight entertainment on the backs of the seats. In addition to a touchscreen, you might also be able to control the channel or volume with help from a membrane switch in your armrest. You may also see membrane switches above your head to control your seat lighting.
  10. Crockpots: On a cold winter’s day, there’s nothing better than coming home to a hot meal. Crockpots make this easy to do, thanks to the membrane switch designs many have. You can simply turn on the power, select the temperature, and how long you want to cook for with a couple of presses.