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Key points

  • An interface is a piece of hardware that allows to devices to communicate. An interface can also be used between internal components in a computer.
  • Interfaces are needed because different components/devices have different operating speeds, data formats and protocols


Functions of an interface

  • Buffering - temporary storage for data before it is processed, e.g. keyboard buffer that holds the data sent from a keyboard until the processor has time to process the input data.
  • Data format conversion - convert serial data to parallel and vice versa, or convert analogue to digital (by sampling data within a range of values)
  • Status signals - devices may have different states (ready/halted) or need to relay information about locations or errors via a status message
  • Protocol conversion - some data will appear in a format not used by the computer and will need converted (e.g. non-standard characters, or different format of binary number)
  • Voltage conversion- some devices need power to operate, and can get this through the interface. Other low power devices must use the interface to convert to the right level of voltage for the computer’s IO system.


Further information

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Teaching resources