What is an output device?

Monitors, speakers and printers all count as output devices, receiving data from your computer

An output device, as the name suggests, is a device that serves as the output for a computer process, whether that's a visual representation on a screen, a sound, or a physical object, such as a printed document.

Technically speaking, an output device can be defined as any hardware that takes data from a computer and translates it into a different medium - i.e. taking an input and converting it to an entirely different output. Therefore, the term 'output device' can refer to a wide range of equipment types.

Display output devices

A common form of output is to send data to a display device, whether that's a computer monitor, television, projector or a big screen at an event. These are designed to translate data into a visual representation, for example, a computer monitor displaying the graphical user interface (GUI) or desktop created by the machine's operating system. In that case, the monitor allows its users to interact with the GUI and manipulate the machine into performing tasks.

Audio output devices

Another common output device is audio hardware, equipment that's designed to translate data into sound. Users will typically interact with audio devices in the form of either in-built or external speakers, the latter of which can make use of physical cables or networking technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

While audio devices are useful for providing music and sound attached to video files, they are also incredibly helpful for alerting users to various notifications, whether that's ping sound of incoming emails and messages on social media, or the alarms associated with errors and machine performance.

Physical output devices

Aside from display and audio output devices, there's another type of device that offers an output once pumped with information. Physical output devices create something tangible and yep, you've guessed it, a printer is the best example in this category.

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These could be standard 2D printers, reproducing words on a piece of paper. They could also include 3D printed outputs - creating entire objects. Of course, this latter category is a little more complicated than standard 2D printers.

A plotter is probably a less-known type of output device unless you work in the engineering or architecture sector. These machines comprise a large "arm" holding a pen and is used for sketching out vast images, such as plans. It's a more accurate way of drawing, ensuring every line is in the precise position it needs to be.

Other output devices

Alternative output devices may include ones that generate a kind of physical motion, such as in a connected gadget or robot - or even braille readers. These readers help the visually impaired to use computers by translating on-screen text to braille via raising and lowering a series of pins.

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