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Input Devices

Input device enables the user to send data, information, or control signals to a computer. The Central Processing Unit (CPU) of a computer receives the input and processes it to produce the output.

Some of the popular input devices are:

  1. Keyboard
  2. Mouse
  3. Scanner
  4. Joystick
  5. Light Pen
  6. Digitizer
  7. Microphone
  8. Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR)
  9. Optical Character Reader (OCR)

1) Keyboard

The keyboard is a basic input device that is used to enter data into a computer or any other electronic device by pressing keys. It has different sets of keys for letters, numbers, characters, and functions. Keyboards are connected to a computer through USB or a Bluetooth device for wireless communication.

Types of keyboards: There can be different types of keyboards based on the region and language used. Some of the common types of keyboards are as follows:

i) QWERTY Keyboard:


It is the most commonly used keyboard with computers in modern times. It is named after the first six letters of the top row of buttons and is even popular in countries that do not use Latin-based alphabet. It is so popular that some people think that it is the only type of keyboard to use with computers as an input device.

ii) AZERTY Keyboard:

AZERTY keyboard

It is considered the standard French keyboard. It is developed in France as an alternative layout to the QWERTY layout and is mainly used in France and other European countries. Some countries have manufactured their own versions of AZERTY.

Its name is derived from the first six letters that appear on the top left row of the keyboard. The Q and W keys in AZERTY keyboard are interchanged with A and Z keys in QWERTY keyboard. Furthermore, in AZERTY keyboard M key is located to the left of the L key.

AZERTY keyboard differs from QWERTY keyboard not only in the placement of letters but also in many other ways, e.g., it gives emphasis on accents, which is required for writing European languages like French.

iii) DVORAK Keyboard:

DVORAK keyboard

This type of keyboard layout was developed to increase the typing speed by reducing the finger movement while typing. The most frequently used letters are kept in a home row to improve typing.

2) Mouse

The mouse is a hand-held input device which is used to move cursor or pointer across the screen. It is designed to be used on a flat surface and generally has left and right button and a scroll wheel between them. Laptop computers come with a touchpad that works as a mouse. It lets you control the movement of cursor or pointer by moving your finger over the touchpad. Some mouse comes with integrated features such as extra buttons to perform different buttons.

The mouse was invented by Douglas C. Engelbart in 1963. Early mouse had a roller ball integrated as a movement sensor underneath the device. Modern mouse devices come with optical technology that controls cursor movements by a visible or invisible light beam. A mouse is connected to a computer through different ports depending on the type of computer and type of a mouse.

Common types of the mouse:

i) Trackball Mouse:

Trackball mouse

It is a stationary input device that has ball mechanism to move the pointer or cursor on the screen. The ball is half inserted in the device and can be easily rolled with finger, thumb or the palm to move the pointer on the screen. The device has sensor to detect the rotation of ball. It remains stationary; you don't need to move it on the operating surface. So, it is an ideal device if you have limited desk space as you don't need to move it like a mouse.

ii) Mechanical Mouse:

Mechanical mouse

It has a system of a ball and several rollers to track its movement. It is a corded type of mouse. A mechanical mouse can be used for high performance. The drawback is that they tend to get dust into the mechanics and thus require regular cleaning.

iii) Optical Mouse:

Optical mouse

An optical mouse uses optical electronics to track its movement. It is more reliable than a mechanical mouse and also requires less maintenance. However, its performance is affected by the surface on which it is operated. Plain non-glossy mouse mat should be used for best results. The rough surface may cause problems for the optical recognition system, and the glossy surface may reflect the light wrongly and thus may cause tracking issues.

iv) Cordless or Wireless Mouse:

Cordless or Wireless mouse

As the name suggests, this type of mouse lacks cable and uses wireless technology such as IrDA (infrared) or radio (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi) to control the movement of the cursor. It is used to improve the experience of using a mouse. It uses batteries for its power supply.

3) Scanner

The scanner uses the pictures and pages of text as input. It scans the picture or a document. The scanned picture or document then converted into a digital format or file and is displayed on the screen as an output. It uses optical character recognition techniques to convert images into digital ones. Some of the common types of scanners are as follows:

Types of Scanner:

i) Flatbed Scanner:

Flatbed Scanner

It has a glass pane and a moving optical CIS or CCD array. The light illuminates the pane, and then the image is placed on the glass pane. The light moves across the glass pane and scans the document and thus produces its digital copy. You will need a transparency adapter while scanning transparent slides.

ii) Handheld Scanner:

Handheld Scanner

It is a small manual scanning device which is held by hand and is rolled over a flat image that is to be scanned. The drawback in using this device is that the hand should be steady while scanning; otherwise, it may distort the image. One of the commonly used handheld scanners is the barcode scanner which you would have seen in shopping stores.

iii) Sheetfed Scanner:

Sheetfed Scanner

In this scanner, the document is inserted into the slot provided in the scanner. The main components of this scanner include the sheet-feeder, scanning module, and calibration sheet. The light does not move in this scanner. Instead, the document moves through the scanner. It is suitable for scanning single page documents, not for thick objects like books, magazines, etc.

iv) Drum Scanner:

Drum Scanner

Drum scanner has a photomultiplier tube (PMT) to scan images. It does not have a charge-coupled device like a flatbed scanner. The photomultiplier tube is extremely sensitive to light. The image is placed on a glass tube, and the light moves across the image, which produces a reflection of the image which is captured by the PMT and processed. These scanners have high resolution and are suitable for detailed scans.

v) Photo Scanner:

Photo Scanner

It is designed to scan photographs. It has high resolution and color depth, which are required for scanning photographs. Some photo scanners come with in-built software for cleaning and restoring old photographs.

4) Joystick


A joystick is also a pointing input device like a mouse. It is made up of a stick with a spherical base. The base is fitted in a socket that allows free movement of the stick. The movement of stick controls the cursor or pointer on the screen.

The frist joystick was invented by C. B. Mirick at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. A joystick can be of different types such as displacement joysticks, finger-operated joysticks, hand operated, isometric joystick, and more. In joystick, the cursor keeps moving in the direction of the joystick unless it is upright, whereas, in mouse, the cursor moves only when the mouse moves.

5) Light Pen

Light Pen

A light pen is a computer input device that looks like a pen. The tip of the light pen contains a light-sensitive detector that enables the user to point to or select objects on the display screen. Its light sensitive tip detects the object location and sends the corresponding signals to the CPU. It is not compatible with LCD screens, so it is not in use today. It also helps you draw on the screen if needed. The first light pen was invented around 1955 as a part of the Whirlwind project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

6) Digitizer


Digitizer is a computer input device that has a flat surface and usually comes with a stylus. It enables the user to draw images and graphics using the stylus as we draw on paper with a pencil. The images or graphics drawn on the digitizer appear on the computer monitor or display screen. The software converts the touch inputs into lines and can also convert handwritten text to typewritten words.

It can be used to capture handwritten signatures and data or images from taped papers. Furthermore, it is also used to receive information in the form of drawings and send output to a CAD (Computer-aided design) application and software like AutoCAD. Thus, it allows you to convert hand-drawn images into a format suitable for computer processing.

7) Microphone


The microphone is a computer input device that is used to input the sound. It receives the sound vibrations and converts them into audio signals or sends to a recording medium. The audio signals are converted into digital data and stored in the computer. The microphone also enables the user to telecommunicate with others. It is also used to add sound to presentations and with webcams for video conferencing. A microphone can capture audio waves in different ways; accordingly the three most common types are described below:

i) Dynamic:


It is the most commonly used microphone with a simple design. It has a magnet which is wrapped by a metal coil and a thin sheet on the front end of the magnet. The sheet transfers vibrations from sound waves to the coil and from coil to electric wires which transmit the sound like an electrical signal.

ii) Condenser:

Condenser Microphone

It is designed for audio recording and has a very sensitive and flat frequency response. It has a front plate called diaphragm and a back plate parallel to the front plate. When sound hits the diaphragm, it vibrates the diaphragm and alters the distance between the two plates. The changes in distance are transmitted as electric signals.

iii) Ribbon:

Ribbon Microphone

It is known for its reliability. It has a thin ribbon made of aluminum, duraluminum, or nanofilm suspended in a magnetic field. The sound waves cause vibrations in the ribbon, which generate a voltage proportional to the velocity of the vibration. The voltage is transmitted as an electrical signal. Early ribbon microphones had a transformer to increase the output voltage, but modern ribbon microphones come with advanced magnets to produce a strong signal.

8) Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR)


MICR computer input device is designed to read the text printed with magnetic ink. MICR is a character recognition technology that makes use of special magnetized ink which is sensitive to magnetic fields. It is widely used in banks to process the cheques and other organizations where security is a major concern. It can process three hundred cheques in a minute with hundred-percent accuracy. The details on the bottom of the cheque (MICR No.) are written with magnetic ink. A laser printer with MICR toner can be used to print the magnetic ink.

The device reads the details and sends to a computer for processing. A document printed in magnetic ink is required to pass through a machine which magnetizes the ink, and the magnetic information is then translated into characters.

9) Optical Character Reader (OCR)


OCR computer input device is designed to convert the scanned images of handwritten, typed or printed text into digital text. It is widely used in offices and libraries to convert documents and books into electronic files.

It processes and copies the physical form of a document using a scanner. After copying the documents, the OCR software converts the documents into a two-color (black and white), version called bitmap. Then it is analyzed for light and dark areas, where the dark areas are selected as characters, and the light area is identified as background. It is widely used to convert hard copy legal or historic documents into PDFs. The converted documents can be edited if required like we edit documents created in ms word.

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