What is an Input Device: Definition, Types and Functions

Computers have become an essential tool in modern society. We need it for almost everything: from work to entertainment. They enable us to perform tasks efficiently and in a much faster way. However, computers are pretty useless without the right devices and accessories. The computer peripherals make them much more useful and let users carry out tasks easily. Input devices are one of them.

What is an Input Device?

input devices

Input devices facilitate communication and interaction with the computer. They allow users to send their commands and information to the computer, which in turn processes it and carries out the desired actions. They act as a bridge between humans and computers.

The most common input devices are the mouse, keyboard, and touchpad. There are also a number of specialized input devices such as joysticks, light pens, and light pens among others.

Types of input devices

Here’s the list of all the different types of input devices and their functions.

1. Keyboard

A keyboard is like a modern-day typewriter. It’s a device with buttons that allow users to type letters, numbers, and symbols.

Whether one wants to write an email, play games, or give commands to the computer, one needs a keyboard to get the job done. It has control keys, function keys, LED indicators, a wrist pad, arrow keys, and a keypad. A computer keyboard can be wired or wireless. Wireless keyboards are usually smaller and more portable and allow flexibility to the user.

2. Mouse

A mouse is a small, handheld device, that is used to control the cursor on a computer screen. It is one of the most essential input devices as it allows users to navigate through the computer interface and give instructions. The portable device is placed over a flat surface and moved across the screen to highlight select, drag, or point elements to execute commands.

The mouse is connected to the computer through a cable or wirelessly.

3. Joystick


It’s used to control a character or machine in a computer program. The input device, sometimes called a flight stick, consists of a lever that pivots on a base and can be moved in multiple directions. The movement of a pointer or cursor in a computer is controlled by maneuvering the lever on the joystick. It’s often used in graphic applications for picking up items or moving them around the screen. Joysticks are helpful when there is a need to perform direct pointing or when precision is required. It is also a helpful device for people with movement disabilities or poor motor skills.

4. Light Pen

light pen


The hand-held device, resembling a pen, used to select texts, draw pictures, and interact with user interface components on a computer screen. The device is equipped with a writing tip or nib that is sensitive to light. When its tip is moved over a display screen, and pressed against it, it produces an electrical signal that detects the screen location and sends it to the CPU. Light pens have the advantage of not requiring a mouse or other cursor control device to operate.

5. Microphone


A microphone allows users to input audio into their systems. It’s a transducer that translates sound into electronic signals and scribes them on a computer screen or over a loudspeaker. In simpler terms, it captures sound waves, converts them into electrical signals, and sends the signals to a computer. Microphones are used for various purposes from adding sound to a multimedia presentation to mixing music. They are standalone devices but can also be embedded in other devices such as headsets and telephones.

6. Scanner


This electronic device reads and converts physical information into electronic data. It is used to scan and transfer photos, drawings, or text documents into a computer. It can capture images from documents, posters, magazines, and similar sources for computer editing, storage, or viewing. There are different types of scanners that perform different tasks and come with different resolutions. The four most common types of scanners are Flatbed, Sheet-fed, Handheld, and Drum scanners.

7. Digitizer


It’s a hardware device that receives analog information, such as sound, image, signal, or light, and records it in digital form for storage, transfer, and editing purposes.

A digital camera is the most popular example of a digitizer. A digital camera captures the light that enters through the lens, convert it into binary data, and stores it as an image file. The computer user can then transfer the image file to a computer or a printer to view, edit, or print the image.

Another popular type of digitizer is the graphic tablet. It converts graphics and pictorial data into computer-readable data and allows the user to perform fine movements on the tablet screen, like drawing and image editing.

8. Magnetic Ink Character Recognition

MICR is a character recognition technology used to verify the legitimacy of cheques or other negotiable documents. It’s widely popular in the banking industry where they deploy it to streamline the processing and clearance of cheques.

In the cheques, there is a MICR encoding or MICR line, at the bottom, which consists of a specific sequence of numbers that signify bank code, bank account number, cheque number, and other information. The format for the bank code and bank account number is country specific. The technology allows bank employees to recognize the numbers on the cheques and process them for clearing without having to read each cheque manually. The MICR readers magnetize the ink and detect the MICR characters on the cheques, allowing a user to read, process, and record information.

9. Optical Character Reader

The device converts printed or written text into a machine-readable text format. It lets user extract data and use it for processing, storage, or transmission. It makes data accessible and improves the speed and accuracy of data entry.

It’s useful for businesses as they receive a lot of information from print media. To enhance the paperless documentation approach, OCR technology enables businesses to extract information from any document and analyze, store, and retrieve it easily.

 10. Digital Camera

The Digital camera in the computer is a device that can take photos and show us on our computer screen and saves them in our computer storage. It also allows printing the images directly. The speed with which digital cameras can capture, process, and send images is astounding.

11. Touch screen

A touch screen is a type of display which also works as an input device. It allows one to interact with the computer using hand gestures and fingertip movements to tap pictures, move elements or type words on the screen.

12. TouchPad

The touchpad, also known as a trackpad, is a pointing device with a tactile sensor. It is a specific surface that can translate a user’s finger motion and position to a relative position on the operating system displayed on the screen. A touchpad is usually found on laptops and performs the same task as a mouse on a desktop computer. However, according to their needs, many users prefer to use touch pad even on their desktop computers.

13. Biometric Devices

A biometric input device scans and analyses physical traits such as fingerprints, face, iris, or voice to authenticate or identify a person’s identity. The primary purpose of biometric input devices is to eliminate the need for passwords or other traditional means of authentication to provide a secure and straightforward manner of accessing information systems, mobile devices, or physical venues. Fingerprint scanners, iris scanners, facial recognition cameras, and voice recognition microphones are the most commonly used biometric input devices.

14. Webcam

A webcam is a type of digital camera which is linked to a computer, often via USB. It is usually used for online video conferencing, live streaming, and video recording. Webcams can also be used for security purposes, such as remotely monitoring a location.

15. Paddle

It is a gaming controller. The device is often made out of a spinning knob or wheel that can be spun either way and is used to control the movement of a gaming character or vehicle. It is usually used in racing games, where players can drive their virtual car with a paddle. In some cases, the paddle input device may also have buttons or triggers that can be used to perform specific actions, such as accelerating or braking.

16. Steering Wheel

A steering wheel input device is a type of gaming controller that simulates the real-world driving experience. It usually consists of a steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals. The steering wheel input device is often used in racing games, where the player can use the wheel to manoeuvre their virtual automobile.

17. Gesture recognition devices

A gesture recognition input device lets users control electronic devices by employing hand gestures or body motions as input signals. These devices use sensors to detect and analyse human movements.

18. Light Gun

It is a gun-like device which allows players to shoot targets by pointing towards the screen. Light guns were prevalent during the arcade game’s golden age in the 1980s and 1990s and have been used in various arcade and home video game systems like Nintendo.

19. Remote


A remote is a device that is used to control and operate a machine from a distance. The hand-held device comes with a number of buttons that are used to navigate the menus or to select the preferred options. When a user presses the button, the device sends a signal to the machine, usually by infrared light or radio signal, which then responds by executing the command. The television remote is one of the most commonly used examples of these devices. Other common examples include remote controls for stereos, air conditioners, and car doors.

20. VR


VR, which stands for Virtual Reality, is a new addition to the list of input devices. It helps a user navigate and interact with a computer-generated environment. VR is a head-mounted wearable that tracks information generated by the user’s senses and movements and transmits it to the computer. When a user wears the headset, their natural field of view is replaced with a virtual environment. It stimulates an immersive experience and allows the user to move around freely and interact with the environment.

Also Read: Complete list of computer shortcut keys from A to Z to operate Windows, macOS, MS Excel, and More

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