Computer Basics: 10 Examples of Input Devices

Updated on August 10, 2019
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Paul's passion for technology and digital media goes back over thirty years. Born in the UK, he now lives in Florida, USA.


What is an Input Device?

An input device is essentially a piece of hardware that sends data to a computer. 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

I will give more detail on each selected device 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, surrounded by number, symbol, function, and other key types. By pressing the relevant keys, the user feeds data and instructions to the computer.

2. Mouse

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

3. Touchpad

Also known as a trackpad, a touchpad is a common substitute for a computer mouse. Essentially a specialized surface that can detect the movement of the user's finger and use that information to direct a pointer and control a computer. Touchpads were first introduced for laptops in the 1990's, 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 mean a desktop image scanner. Essentially, it's 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 edited, emailed, or printed.

5. Digital Camera

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

6. Microphone

A microphone captures audio and send it to the computer, where the audio is converted to a digital format. Once the audio has been digitized, it can be played back, copied, edited, uploaded, or emailed. Microphones can 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 as a way of controlling computer video games (as well as having a host of other uses, such as controlling jet planes and construction machinery). Essentially, the joystick is a stick that pivots on a base and sends its angle or direction to the computer. There is also often a trigger, as well as one or more buttons that can be pressed too.

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. Instead of just scanning finished drawings into the computer using a scanner, the graphic tablet offers greater control and versatility for artists.

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 screen which reacts to fingers moving across it. Touch screens are particularly common with portable devices, such as tablets, palmtops, laptops, and smartphones.

10. Webcam

Webcams are different from digital cameras in that firstly, they cannot operate independently from a computer, and secondly, they have no inbuilt memory. Although webcams can capture photographs and videos, more often they are used to live stream videos.

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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