What is an Input Device for a Computer? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:02 Input Device Defined
  • 0:30 Examples of Input Devices
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Paul Zandbergen

Paul has a PhD from the University of British Columbia and has taught Geographic Information Systems, statistics and computer programming for 15 years.

To interact with your computer, you need input devices. The most common are a keyboard and a mouse, but there are other devices for more specialized tasks. Learn about these devices and how they're becoming integrated into single computer systems.

Input Device Defined

An input device for a computer allows you to enter information. The most fundamental pieces of information are keystrokes on a keyboard and clicks with a mouse. These two input devices are essential for you to interact with your computer. Many other input devices exist for entering other types of information, such as images, audio and video. Input devices represent one type of computer peripheral - the other two types are output devices and storage devices.

Examples of Input Devices

A keyboard is the most fundamental input device for any computer system. In the early days of computing, it was typically the only input device. A keyboard contains keys for letters and numbers as well as for specialized tasks, such as Enter, Delete, etc.

Typical keyboard for a desktop computer
computer keyboard

When operating systems started to use graphical user interface (GUI), the mouse was developed as a pointing device. Typically, a mouse resides on a flat surface, and by moving the mouse, you can move the pointer on the screen. One or more buttons on the mouse allow you to enter instructions by clicking. Most models also include a wheel for scrolling.

Typical mouse for a desktop computer
computer mouse

Desktop computers have a separate keyboard and mouse, but for laptops, these are integrated into a computer system itself. In laptops, the mouse is actually substituted with a touchpad or trackpad. This is a specialized surface that follows the motion of your finger. You can still connect an external mouse to a laptop if you prefer.

Keyboard and trackpad on a laptop computer
computer laptop keyboard

Another common input device is an image scanner. A typical desktop or flatbed scanner is a device that optically scans printed images and paper documents and converts them into digital images. In most scanners, you place the document on a glass plate and place an opaque cover over it. A bright light moves across the image, and the reflection is captured by a sensor, which converts the document to a digital image.

Flatbed scanner
computer flatbed scanner

Audio and video can be recorded using a microphone and video camera, respectively. Due to the popularity of video conferencing using services like Skype, these are now typically integrated in most laptops and monitor displays for desktops; however, you can also connect an external webcam, which can record both audio and video.

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