Output devices

Output Devices

An output unit of a computer system performs the following functions:

  • It accepts the results produced by the computer, which are in coded form and hence, cannot be easily understood by us
  • It converts these coded results to human acceptable (readable) form
  • It supplies the converted results to outside world

Commonly Used Output Devices

  • Monitor/Display: Displays visual information generated by the computer, including text, graphics, and videos.
  • Printer: Produces a hard copy of documents, images, or other content from the computer.
  • Speaker: Outputs audio and sound generated by the computer, including music, system sounds, and voice.
  • Projector: Displays computer-generated content onto a large screen or surface, commonly used for presentations.
  • Headphones: Similar to speakers, they output audio and allow the user to listen to sounds privately.
  • Plotter: Outputs vector graphics by drawing lines on paper, often used for architectural or engineering designs.
  • Braille Display: Converts digital text into Braille characters for visually impaired users.
  • 3D Printer: Creates physical objects layer by layer based on digital 3D models.
  • LED/LCD Panel: Used in various devices like smart TVs, digital signage, and information displays.
  • Haptic Devices: Provide tactile feedback, such as vibrating controllers or force feedback in gaming.
  • E-book Reader: Displays digital books and documents in an electronic format.
  • Fax Machine: Transmits a scanned image or document over a telephone line.
  • Digital Camera: Captures and stores digital images and videos.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) Headset: Displays immersive virtual environments for users.
  • Wearable Devices: Devices like smartwatches or smart glasses that display information on a small screen.

Types of Output

Soft-copy output

  • Not produced on a paper or some material that can be touched and carried for being shown to others
  • Temporary in nature and vanish after use
  • Examples are output displayed on a terminal screen or spoken out by a voice response system

Hard-copy output

  • Produced on a paper or some material that can be touched and carried for being shown to others
  • Permanent in nature and can be kept in paper files or can be looked at a later time when the person is not using the computer
  • Examples are output produced by printers or plotters on paper


  • Monitors are the most popular output devices used for producing soft-copy output
  • Display the output on a television like screen
  • Monitor associated with a keyboard is called a video display terminal (VDT).
  • It is the most popular Output device

Types of Monitors

  • Cathode-ray-tube (CRT) monitors look like a television and are normally used with non-portable computer systems
  • Flat-panel monitors are thinner and lighter and are commonly used with portable computer systems like notebook computers. Now they are also used with non- portable desktop computer systems because they occupy less table space.


Most common output devices for producing hard-copy output

Dot-Matrix Printers

  • Character printers that form characters and all kinds of images as a pattern of dots
  • Print many special characters, different sizes of print and graphics such as charts and graphs
  • Impact printers can be used for generating multiple copies by using carbon paper or its equivalent
  • Slow, with speeds usually ranging between 30 to 600 characters per second
  • Cheap in both initial cost and cost of operation

Inkjet Printers

  • Character printers that form characters and all kinds of images by spraying small drops of ink on to the paper
  • Print head contains up to 64 tiny nozzles that can be selectively heated up in a few micro seconds by an integrated circuit register
  • To print a character, the printer selectively heats the appropriate set of nozzles as the print head moves horizontally
  • Can print many special characters, different sizes of print, and graphics such as charts and graphs
  • Non-impact printers. Hence, they cannot produce multiple copies of a document in a single printing
  • Can be both monochrome and color
  • Slower than dot-matrix printers with speeds usually ranging between 40 to 300 characters per second
  • More expensive than a dot-matrix printer

Laser Printers

  • Page printers that print one page at a time
  • Consist of a laser beam source, a multi-sided mirror, a photoconductive drum and toner (tiny particles of oppositely charged ink)
  • To print a page, the laser beam is focused on the electro statically charged drum by the spinning multi-sided mirror
  • Toner sticks to the drum in the places the laser beam has charged the drum’s surface.
  • Toner is then permanently fused on the paper with heat and pressure to generate the printer output
  • Laser printers produce very high quality output having resolutions in the range of 600 to 1200 dpi


Plotters are an ideal output device for architects, engineers, city planners, and others who need to routinely generate high-precision, hard-copy graphic output of widely varying sizes

Two commonly used types of plotters are:

  • Drum plotter, in which the paper on which the design has to be made is placed over a drum that can rotate in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions
  • Flatbed plotter, in which the paper on which the design has to be made is spread and fixed over a rectangular flatbed table

Screen Image Projector

  • An output device that can be directly plugged to a computer system for projecting information from a computer on to a large screen
  • Useful for making presentations to a group of people with direct use of a computer
  • Full-fledged multimedia presentation with audio, video, image, and animation can be prepared and made using this facility

Voice Response Systems

  • Voice response system enables a computer to talk to a user
  • Has an audio-response device that produces audio output
  • Such systems are of two types:
  • Voice reproduction systems
  • Speech synthesizers

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