Types of Computer Peripherals

by David Nield

The term "computer peripheral" covers a wide range of devices, from a simple mouse to an advanced graphics tablet. Peripherals can be split into several distinct categories, most of which cover input and output communications with the computer. A number of additional peripherals, such as webcams, do not fit easily into any category and stand on their own as a type of peripheral.

Input Devices

Input devices are peripherals enabling you to give the computer instructions. The most commonly used input devices are mice and keyboards, but others are available — trackballs, graphics tablets and infra-red remote controls can all be used to tell a computer to carry out a particular task. An external microphone is another example of an input device peripheral. Input devices typically connect via a USB cable or dongle, or via the Bluetooth wireless technology.

Audio Devices

Audio devices are peripherals which output the sound from a PC. Examples include a set of speakers or a headset. Most speaker systems and headsets plug directly into a computer's audio jacks, though some devices can connect wirelessly over Bluetooth. A full range of speaker sets are available, from single speakers to 7.1 sets that include a subwoofer and seven individual satellite speakers for a surround sound effect.

Display Devices

Display device peripherals show the visual output from a computer. This generally means the attached monitor, though projectors also fall under the same heading. The majority of motherboards and graphics cards are able to run two monitors if required, and most modern displays make use of the High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) standard that carries audio as well. Older connection technologies still extensively used are Digital Video Interface (DVI) and Video Graphics Array (VGA), and many monitors offer a choice of ports.

Printers and Scanners

Printers and scanners are often grouped together as peripherals and in some cases appear together on the same unit (known as a Multi-Function Device or All-In-One). Scanners are used to import documents, photos or artwork into a PC, while printers are used to output physical documents and typically use either inkjet or laser printing technology. Some MFD units include the ability to create copies of an original document through the printer and scanner components without using a computer at all.

Other Peripherals

Other computer peripherals are available that do not fall easily into any particular type or category. These include webcams, used to record video and make calls over the Web, and USB hubs, used to expand the number of available USB ports on a computer. Memory card readers can also be classed as peripherals, connecting to a computer via a USB cable and enabling memory cards to be viewed as a local drive.

About the Author

An information technology journalist since 2002, David Nield writes about the Web, technology, hardware and software. He is an experienced editor, proofreader and copywriter for online publications such as CNET, TechRadar and Gizmodo. Nield holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and lives in Manchester, England.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera computer mouse image by Jenny Thompson from Fotolia.com