Some of the most basic elements to understand about how computers work, is the concept of input and output. These terms can mean a variety of things, and can refer to the device you use, the data you put into it and the information you get out.
All computers, whether they are the most sophisticated or the most basic, work on the principle that there needs to be input from a user (or another device). This input is used in order to get certain data that will be processed by the computer. The processed data is then presented as output that you can view on screen, print out output in hardcopy format or listen to playback.
When it comes to input there are quite a few devices that can provide input for a computer. This can range from the keyboard and mouse, to a flatbed scanner, barcode scanners, and microphones and so on. The data provided and processed can then be viewed on an output device like a monitor, or can be printed to provide a hard copy of the output.
In order to understand why something is an input or output device you need to think about what it does in relation to the computer. An input device is an element that takes input and converts it into something that the computer can process.
Input can come directly from the user (that means you) like when you type certain things on a keyboard. Or it can be something like a page or document that you scan. It can also be the barcode that you scan when you are in a shop, a voice recording over a microphone or images loaded from a digital camera.
What is a scanner?
When you want to know if a scanner is input, you first need to be clear about what counts as a scanner. A scanner is a device that converts a hard copy of an image or document to a digital format. It does this by converting the image to pixels, which are then converted to binary code and sent to the computer. Here the computer can read it via different applications or programs.
You can then provide additional input to edit the images. Most scanners are image based, but you can also scan text. The text can be run through software that is aimed at converting text to editable text, so you can use it in Word or other Office programs.
Scanners can also be relatively basic devices that are focused on reading specific types of images. These barcode scanners can work very quickly, but can’t process anything more complicated than a standard barcode.
They are also input devices, because they convert the image (or barcode) to data that can be edited. The barcode data can be converted to information on the date of sale, the type of product and manufacturer and so on.
A scanner then fits well into the category of an input device. Whether you are thinking of a flatbed document scanner, the scanning component of a combined printer and scanner, or something more basic like a barcode scanner, they all fit in this category.
Why is a scanner an input device?
A scanner can be considered an input device, even though it might form part of something like a combined device, such as a three in one printer. The printer itself, is an output device, but the scanner remains an input device. Any device that gives you the opportunity to put information into a computer is always an input device. It is really just as straightforward as that.
A scanner is not an output device because it cannot receive information from the computer, whereas a printer can receive information and create hard copy output in the form of a document.
Whether it is a barcode, a financial document or photo of a loved one you will be adding some information to the system. The system or computer may be receiving different kinds of information for you, as the user, from whatever source you may choose to use as an input. But it will always be reproducing the information you give the input device in digital code.
This input will then be sent to the computer for further use. There may be very different reasons for importing information into your computer. It can be to add an item to your shopping list, an important document for editing or storage or further use.
It may even be a photo for remembrance or to share a memory with someone else. But all of this is done via the scanner as the first point of access to the computer or network.
If you are just starting to find your feet in terms of input and output devices, we hope this piece has set things out a little more clearly for you. Especially when it comes to understanding that a scanner is an input device, and that there are clear reasons why we say so. If you keep the basic idea in mind when you need to think about input and output, it will be quite easy.
Anything you use to put information into the computer is input devices. If you need to get something out of the system again, you will need an output device. This will be something like a printer, screen or your speakers.
There are also different programs and applications that can help you to convert your input (that you put into the computer through a scanner or keyboard) to useable output.
This will depend on your needs, what you want to do with your scanned images for example. Do you want to store and organise them? Do you want to edited them and then print it again? There are thousands of possibilities. You just need to decide what you want your input device to add to your computer.
Hopefully this piece will help you to steer your way through the terminology of input and output devices so you can be sure about where scanners belong.