Types of Input Devices

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Input devices are those used to bring information into a computer, whether that information is directly entered by a user with a device like a keyboard or mouse or obtained from observations through a device like a scanner or microphone. The number of types of input devices has grown in recent years, as more and more types of hardware have come to be computerized.

Types of Input Devices

Some input devices are handled directly by users to enter data and send commands. Common examples include keyboards and computer mice. Smart phone and laptop touchscreens also fall into this category, as do the touchpads that are common substitutes for mice on many laptops.

Some users may prefer more specialized input devices for certain tasks. For example, frequent video game players often prefer specialized video game controllers that can be connected to gaming PCs. They're similar to the controllers used with stand-alone video-game console systems.

Artists and designers often use another specialized type of input device known as a drawing tablet. These allow users to draw on a digital pad with an electronic stylus, similarly to how they would draw with a traditional pen or pencil on a paper tablet.

More esoteric input devices, like foot pedals or handheld clickers that can send mouse-style signals, also exist for specialized applications, like advancing slides hands-free or without needing to sit in front of a computer.

Audio and Video Input Devices

Modern computers and smart phones also include input devices designed for capturing audio and video. Many phones and laptops include a camera designed to capture visual input and a microphone designed to capture audio signals, all in a digital format the computer or phone can understand. External microphones and cameras can also be connected.

Microphones are also used as input on smart speakers, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home devices, which communicate with users chiefly or entirely via sound.

Scanners are another common type of visual input device. These include flatbed and handheld scanners used to capture documents as well as the barcode scanners commonly used in retail stores to identify products and look up prices.

Scientific and Industrial Input Devices

More specialized applications often call for more specialized input devices. For example, scientific instruments like microscopes and telescopes can be connected to computers to capture images of tiny objects or those far away in the sky.

Industrial devices, including pressure and temperature sensors used in factories and similar environments, can also be used as computer input devices.

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