Peripheral Devices

Peripheral devices are connected to the computer externally. These devices are used for performing some specific functions.

Peripheral devices are:

  1. Input Devices
  2. Output Devices
  3. Other Peripherals

Input Devices

Input devices accept data and instructions from the user. Examples:

  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Light Pen
  • Optical or magnetic Scanner
  • Touch Screen
  • Microphone for voice as input
  • Track Ball

Keyboard: A keyboard is the most common input device. Several kinds of keyboards are available, but they resemble each other with minor variations. The keyboard in most common use is the QWERTY board. Generally standard keyboard has 104 keys. In these keyboards, the cursor control keys are duplicated to allow easier use of the numeric pad.

Mouse: A mouse is an electro-mechanical, hand-held device. It is used as a pointer. It can perform functions like selecting menu commands, moving icons, resizing windows, starting programs, and choosing options. Now a days Optical or laser mouse is used to detect the movement. All windows based applications today are designed to work with a mouse. A mouse is used to replace hard-to-remember key combinations with easier "Point and Click" actions. However, it cannot substitute all keyboard operations. It can be alternative for commands based operations.

Light pen: An input device that utilizes a light-sensitive detector to select objects on a display screen. A light pen is similar to a mouse, except that with a light pen you can move the pointer and select objects on the display screen by directly pointing to the objects with the pen.

Optical Scanner: These devices are used for automatic data collection. The devices of this category completely eliminate manual input of data. For example, the bar-code reader is actually just a special type of image scanner. An image scanner translates printed images into an electronic format that can be stored in a computer’s memory, and with the right kind of software, one can alter a stored image. Another example of scanner is optical character recognition (OCR) device, used by banks to convert the scanned image of a typed or printed page into text that can be edited on the computer.

Touch Screen: Touch panel displays and pads are now being offered as alternatives to keyboard. Here the input can be given through the computer screen, that accepts the input through monitor; users touch electronic buttons displayed on the screen or they may use light pen.

Microphone: Microphone is an input device, which takes voice as input. The voice communication is more error-prone than information through keyboard. There are two types of microphones available - Desktop Microphone and Hand held Microphone.

Track Ball: Trackball, a pointing device, is a mouse lying on its back. To move the pointer, you rotate the ball with your thumb, your fingers, or the palm of your hand. There are usually one to three buttons next to the ball, which you use just like mouse buttons. The advantage of trackballs over mouse is that the trackball is stationary so it does not require much space to use it. In addition, you can place a trackball on any type of surface, including your lap. For both these reasons, trackballs are popular pointing devices for portable computers.

Output Devices

Output devices return processed data that is information, back to the user. Some of the commonly used output devices are:

  • Monitor (Visual Display Unit)
  • Printers
  • Plotter
  • Speakers

Monitor: Out of all the output devices, monitor is perhaps the most important output device because people interact with this device most intensively than others. Computer information is displayed, visually with a video adapter card and monitor. Information processed within the CPU, that needs to be visually displayed, is sent to video adapter. The video adapter converts information from the format used, in the same manner as a television displays information sent to it by a cable service. Two basic types of monitors are used - Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) and Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD).

Most monitors have a resolution of at least 800 x 600 pixels. High-end monitors can have resolutions of 1024 x 768 pixels or even 1280 x 1024 pixels. Thus monitors are available either in low resolution or in high resolution.

Printer: After a document is created on the computer, it can be sent to a printer for a hard copy (printout). Some printers offer special features such as colored and large page formats. Some of the most commonly used printers are:

  1. Laser Printer: A laser printer produces high quality print. It is extremely fast and quiet. Moreover, the operation of a laser printer is easy with automatic paper loading and no smudging or messing up of ink ribbons. 
  2. Ink-Jet Printer: An ink-jet printer creates an image directly on paper by spraying ink through as many as 64 tiny nozzles. Although the image it produces is not generally quite as sharp as the output of a laser printer, the quality of ink-jet images is still high. In general, ink-jet printer offers an excellent middle ground between dot matrix and laser printer.
  3. Dot Matrix Printer: The dot matrix printer was very popular at one point of time. It is a very versatile and inexpensive output device. In dot matrix printer the
    print head physically "hits" the paper through the ribbon and produces text (or images) by combinations of dots; hence the name dot matrix printer. Its speed is measured in characters per second (CPS). Although it is less expensive, it is louder, slower and produces lower print quality.
  4. Line Printer: A line printer is generally used with large computer systems to produce text based data processing reports. Line printers are high-speed printers with speeds ranging anywhere from 100 to about 3800 lines per minute. 

Speaker: Speakers are another type of output device, which allow you to listen to voice like music, and conversation with people.