Automatic input devices

Sensors

Sensors are often used as part of a feedback cycle. They collect data continuously and are typically linked to a control program that specifies acceptable levels, eg the minimum and maximum temperature in a greenhouse. The control program decides what to do next based on the data it's fed by the sensors.

Barcode reader

Barcodes are represented by black vertical bars and are read by a barcode reader. Barcodes are printed on nearly every product you buy, each product has a unique code. When read, information stored in the shop's database is recalled, such as the product name and price. This information later appears on your receipt. The scanning process also assists in stock management, reducing the stock by one each time a product is scanned/sold.

Magnetic strip (or stripe) reader

Magnetic stripes are built into many plastic cards such as debit or credit cards and personal identity cards. The magnetic strip on the back of the card can hold the personal details of the card owner and, with the necessary PIN, will allow access to secure information, eg bank account details. Data stored on the strip is scanned and input into a computer system by a magnetic stripe reader.

Magnetic Ink Character Reader (MICR)

Magnetic ink characters appear at the bottom of cheques. Banks use MICR to read the numbers from the bottom of cheques to obtain data such as account numbers and bank sort codes. A particular font is used that makes it easy for the machine to discriminate between characters. The ink is magnetised, this makes it immune to creases and dirty marks.

Optical Mark Reader (OMR)

An OMR reads marks made by pencil on a printed form into the computer. OMR systems are suited to reading pre-printed forms and check boxes such as lottery number selection sheets and multiple choice exam papers.