Once upon a time a generation ago, the family piano was a piece of furniture at which children were often forced to take piano lessons when they would much rather be playing ball or going to the movies. Times have now changed, and electronic keyboards, which incorporate hundreds to thousands of digital sounds, are ubiquitous and available at price points across the spectrum, making them affordable for underprivileged kids as well as for seasoned professionals.
Electronic keyboards for the consumer usually have a pair of speakers and a host of pre-programmed sounds. Some even have keys that light up to play pre-programmed songs in order to instruct novices on what notes to play popular tunes. Keyboards at higher price points may also include touch-sensitive keys, with the most expensive models sporting graded "hammer action", which replicates the feel and response of an actual piano.
At the professional level, players often dispense with the speakers since the unit is typically plugged into some kind of amplification system. More space and technology is dedicated to programmability and other tone shaping elements for better customization of sounds.
It is much easier now to reproduce many sounds found on popular records with today's electronic keyboards. All of the tonal colors of the orchestra - strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion - can all be found in even the most basic units at local department stores. Digital technology has allowed the ability to sample, or digitally record, the actual instruments' sounds and then add other effects to give some very accurate simulations and, in some cases, recreations of different instruments.
Playing an electronic keyboard presents many challenges when using the keyboard to create sounds outside of the standard piano notes. For example, strings like cellos and violins tend to have a slower note "attack", meaning that there is a delay between hearing the note's initially being played and then hearing the body of the note, as opposed to, say, the sound of a piano striking a key or a guitar string being plucked. Similarly, wind instruments' notes may also have a slower attack versus instruments which are struck or plucked to create their sounds. In order to simulate playing such an instrument in proper context, it may help to use a pitch bend wheel, which is found on more professional grade units, and to develop a tendency to play slightly ahead of the beat in order to make sure the notes are played in proper rhythm.
Context is also important. Many piano trained musicians are used to playing chords - that is, playing two or more notes simultaneously. Monophonic instruments, such as woodwinds and brass, can only play one note at a time. Attempting to play a trumpet solo on a keyboard automatically loses its impact if the player starts playing note combinations that are impossible for an actual trumpeter to play.
In summary, electronic keyboards have made music much more accessible to countless people around the world.