What Are the Functions of Computer Input Devices?

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What Are the Functions of Computer Input Devices?
The mouse and keyboard are just two of many computing input devices. (Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Computer input devices provide users with the ability to control hardware and software functions. Input devices also pass data to the computer. This data can come in many forms, including text, images and audio. There are a lot of input devices you can use with a computer, but they all tend to perform a similar set of functions. Understanding input functions is not typically difficult and is key to understanding how computers work generally.

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Data Input

At the most basic level, an input device is for passing data to a computer system. The most basic forms of input commonly used with computers therefore include portable disk drives and CDs. Portable storage devices such as external hard drives and USB memory sticks store various types of data, contained within digital files. When connected to a computer, these can act as input devices, allowing users to copy files onto the computer system.

Text Input

The keyboard is one of the most frequently used computer input devices. Keyboards are connected to PCs through cables or built-in to the same hardware item in cases such as laptops. Users can input text using their keyboard for functions such as word processing, e-mailing and carrying out Internet activities including entering website addresses, performing searches and e-mailing. With tablet PCs and touchscreen smartphones, users enter text using the screen, which acts as both an input and output device.

Selection and Control

Input devices including mice and touchscreens allow users to control and select computer functions. The computer mouse features one or more buttons and the ability to identify an area within the user interface elements currently displayed on a monitor. Using the mouse buttons, users can launch programs, view options and identify selections within a visible area by clicking and dragging. Gaming controls provide a similar function, as do touchscreens, where control is executed by tapping particular areas of the screen.

Image Capture

Computer programs can capture image data using input devices. Graphics tablets allow users to draw and create visual elements, which are captured and copied onto the computer memory as well as displayed via the monitor. Webcams capture moving images, transferring the associated data for storage on the computer. Digital cameras can also be used as input devices, through which users can transfer the image files for captured photographs onto their computers. Scanners also capture image data and pass this to the computing system they are connected to.

Audio Input

Most computers have an audio input port through which users can record audio tracks. When a microphone is connected to a computer, the user can speak or record sound into it. The resulting data is captured and saved on the computer, allowing further processing to be carried out. Users can edit their captured audio files using software applications or simply store them within digital audio files.

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