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Computer Basics: What is an Input Device? 10 Examples

Paul's passion for technology and digital media goes back over 30 years. Born in the UK, he now lives in the U.S., in Florida.

This article covers 10 of the most common input devices used with home and office computers.

This article covers 10 of the most common input devices used with home and office computers.

What Is an Input Device?

An input device is essentially a piece of hardware that sends data to a computer. Most input devices either interact with or control the computer in some way. The most common input devices are the mouse and the keyboard, but there are many others. The key distinction between an input device and an output device is that the former sends data to the computer, whereas the latter receives data from the computer. Input and output devices that provide computers with additional functionality are also called peripheral or auxiliary devices.

10 Examples of Input Devices

  1. Keyboard
  2. Mouse
  3. Touchpad
  4. Scanner
  5. Digital Camera
  6. Microphone
  7. Joystick
  8. Graphic Tablet
  9. Touch Screen
  10. Webcam

Each device in this list is covered in more detail below.

1. Keyboard

Keyboards are the most common type of input device. Before keyboards, interaction with computers was generally carried out using punch cards and paper tape. Most English language keyboards use the QWERTY layout for the alphabetic keys, which are surrounded by number, symbol, function, and other key types. By pressing the relevant keys, a user can feed data and instructions to the computer.

Input devices like keyboards and mice allow users to interact with their computers by selecting icons and entering text and commands.

Input devices like keyboards and mice allow users to interact with their computers by selecting icons and entering text and commands.

2. Mouse

A mouse interacts with a computer through a process known as "point and click." Essentially, when a user moves the mouse on the mouse pad, the pointer moves in a corresponding direction on the computer's monitor screen. The concept of a computer mouse has its roots in the trackball, a related pointing device invented in 1946 that used a "roller ball" to control a pointer. Most modern computer mice have two buttons for clicking and a wheel in the middle for scrolling up and down documents and web pages.

3. Touchpad

Also known as a trackpad, a touchpad is a common substitute for a computer mouse. It is essentially a specialized surface that can detect the movement of a user's finger and use that information to direct a pointer and control a computer. Touchpads were first introduced for laptops in the 1990s, and it's now rare to find a laptop without one.

4. Scanner

The word "scanner" can be used in a number of different ways in the computer world, but here I am using it to refer to a desktop image scanner. Essentially, a scanner is an input device that uses optical technology to transfer images (or sometimes text) into a computer, where the signal is converted into a digital image. The digital image can then be viewed on a monitor screen, saved, edited, emailed, or printed.

5. Digital Camera

Digital cameras are used to capture photographs and videos independently. Later, these photo and video files can be transferred to a computer by connecting the camera directly with a cable, removing the memory card and slotting it into the computer, or through wireless data transfer methods such as Bluetooth. Once the photos are on the computer, they can be saved, edited, emailed, or printed.

Microphones are input devices that allow users to record, save, and transmit audio using a computer.

Microphones are input devices that allow users to record, save, and transmit audio using a computer.

6. Microphone

A microphone captures audio and sends it to a computer where it is converted to a digital format. Once the audio has been digitized, it can be played back, copied, edited, uploaded, or emailed. Microphones can also be used to record audio or to relay sounds live as part of a video chat or audio stream.

7. Joystick

Joysticks are commonly used to control characters and vehicles in computer video games. Essentially, a joystick is a handle that pivots on a base and sends its angle or direction to the computer as data. Many video gaming joysticks feature triggers and buttons that can be pressed to use weapons or projectiles in games.

8. Graphic Tablet

Also known as digitizers, graphic tablets are input devices used for converting hand-drawn artwork into digital images. The user draws with a stylus on a special flat surface as if they were drawing on a piece of paper. The drawing appears on the computer screen and can be saved, edited, or printed. While scanners can only create digital images from drawings, graphic tablets offer greater control and versatility for artists by allowing them to see their drawing appear live on their monitor as they create it.

Touch screens provide the same functionality as a mouse or trackpad by allowing users to make selections and commands directly through a device's display screen.

Touch screens provide the same functionality as a mouse or trackpad by allowing users to make selections and commands directly through a device's display screen.

9. Touch Screen

Many devices nowadays use a touch screen rather than a mouse as a way for users to point, drag, or select options on a screen. As the name suggests, a touch screen is a touch-sensitive monitor screen that reacts to fingers moving across it. Touch screens are particularly common in portable devices, such as tablets, palmtops, laptops, and smartphones.

10. Webcam

Webcams are different from digital cameras in two ways. Firstly, they cannot operate independently from a computer, and second, they have no inbuilt memory. Although webcams can capture photographs and videos, they are more often used to live-stream videos or facilitate video chats.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Paul Goodman

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