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How computers work

14 Apr 2020

Our lives are full of electronic devices like phones, computers and game consoles. These videos and projects will help you understand what they have in common and how they work. We've also got an 'unplugged' activity to keep curious minds busy around the home.

Inputs and outputs

When you type on your laptop or touch the screen on your phone, you’re using an input device. Inputs allow computers to sense things happening in the real world, so they can act on this and make something happen, usually on an output like a screen or headphones. This video explains more:


Most electronic devices use microprocessors to take information from inputs like buttons and make something happen on outputs like playing a song. The micro:bit is no different. This video explains the vital job done by processors, fetching your instructions (your code) and carrying them out:

Home tech treasure hunt

What inputs and outputs can you find on gadgets or appliances around your house?

Do you think they use processors to decide what to do?

Carry out your own technology treasure hunt survey like this:

A sample survey of inputs and outputs of domestic appliances

Projects to try

Try some micro:bit inputs and outputs out for yourself. These projects use buttons, the processor’s temperature sensor and the micro:bit’s compass inputs and show information on the LED display output:

Use your micro:bit to express how you’re feeling

Make a simple thermometer with your micro:bit

Take your exploration of inputs and outputs further with these projects that use the micro:bit’s LEDs and the pins as both inputs and outputs:

Create an automatic light that turns on when it’s dark.

Explore all projects

micro:bits around the world

This micro:bit memory game from Javier Pier Pombo in Spain makes really clever use of inputs and outputs, detecting long and short button presses and using the 5x5 LED display to show a lot of information.

View the MakeCode project

Keep in touch

We love to hear from you! Please share anything you make or discover with us on Facebook and Twitter using the #microbit hashtag, and sign up for our weekly email newsletter.

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