What Type of Data Does a Keyboard Provide to a Computer?


Scott Campbell

Have you ever wondered what happens when you press a key on your keyboard? How does the computer understand and process the input? In this article, we will explore the different types of data that a keyboard provides to a computer.

Keyboard Input

A keyboard is one of the primary input devices for a computer. When you press a key on your keyboard, it generates an electrical signal that is sent to the computer. This signal contains various types of data that help the computer interpret and respond to your input.


One type of data that a keyboard provides to a computer is called keycodes. Each key on the keyboard has a unique keycode associated with it.

When you press a key, the keyboard sends its corresponding keycode to the computer. This allows the computer to identify which key was pressed.

For example: When you press the letter “A” on your keyboard, it generates a specific keycode (usually 65) that is sent to the computer. The computer then understands that the “A” key was pressed.


In addition to keycodes, keyboards also provide information about modifier keys such as Shift, Alt, and Ctrl. Modifier keys are used in combination with other keys to perform special functions or shortcuts. When you press a modifier key, it modifies the behavior of subsequent key presses.

For instance: If you hold down the Shift key while pressing “A”, it generates a different keycode (usually 65 as well) compared to pressing “A” without holding down Shift. The computer recognizes this combination as an uppercase “A”.

Key States

The third type of data that keyboards provide is information about the state of each key. Keyboards can detect if a key is being pressed (down), released (up), or held down (held). This information is essential for detecting key combinations and enabling features like holding down a key for repeated input.

Keyboard Layouts

Keyboards come in different layouts, depending on the language, region, or personal preference. The layout determines the arrangement of keys and characters on the keyboard. Each key on a keyboard is assigned a specific character based on the layout.

Common keyboard layouts include:

  • QWERTY: The most widely used keyboard layout, named after the first six letters in the top row of keys. This layout is commonly used in English-speaking countries.
  • AZERTY: Used primarily in French-speaking countries, this layout rearranges some keys compared to QWERTY.
  • Dvorak: An alternative layout designed for typing efficiency. It rearranges keys based on letter frequency and finger movement.


In conclusion, a keyboard provides various types of data to a computer when you press a key. This includes keycodes to identify which key was pressed, information about modifier keys for special functions, and data about the state of each key. Understanding how keyboards transmit data is crucial for developing applications that rely on user input.

The next time you use your keyboard, remember that it’s not just a collection of buttons but a sophisticated device that communicates with your computer through electrical signals and provides valuable data!

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