Input/output equipment covers a broad range of devices. It can include everything from paper tape readers and punches, magnetic tape devices, card readers, printers, visual display units, audio and force feedback, and so on.

This type of ‘peripheral’ machinery is a neglected area in the history of computing since without the ability to get data in and out of a computer there would be little point in doing the calculations. As the computing field matured, I/O devices grew more sophisticated and computer users began turning from the simple printing of reams of numbers on a line printer to the production of more human-friendly devices that could plot graphs, display pictures, and eventually even show animations.

I/O devices are primarily responsible for the transition of computers in the 1980s from ‘number crunchers’ to platforms for entertainment, visualization, and communication.