While some might consider them a bit old school, DIP (which stands for dual inline package) switches control the flow of electricity around a PCB, and in doing so, can change the function of that unit.
This allows the user to customize the operation of the device and have greater control over what it does in any given situation, so it’s easy to see why DIP switches are in so much tech.
DIP switches are a cost-effective solution
They are relatively cheap components and are made up of a row of tiny basic on/off switches mounted in a block. These switches are so tiny that they can’t usually be operated by hand and typically have to be operated by the end of a pencil; this is seen as being a bit fiddly and one of the components’ definite downsides.
This is partly why they are considered to be slightly old school, and because of this, they have been supplanted in some devices by more complicated solutions, as those solutions became lower in price. However, they remain cheaper than programmable chips, and for that reason, are still present in many devices we use every day.
Where are DIP switches used?
You can find them in plenty of tech devices that need a wide range of configuration options, such as PC hardware and peripherals. These will include video cards, hard drives, motherboards, and modems. You’ll also find DIP switches in remote controls and automatic garage doors.
Although they can be fiddly, DIP switches are seen as quite a low-tech option (after all, anybody can flick a switch) and, while DIP switches generally work in the same way, there are a variety of different types, according to where they will be used. This variety of types can be placed in one of two groups, either rotary and slide/rocker.
Rotary and slide/rocker DIP switches
The user turns through a circular motion, usually using a screwdriver, to set the position. They can also be designed to turn continuously or stop at preset positions, therefore altering the function of a device according to a set routine.
Rotary switches are considered easier to operate than slide/rocker switches, so where ease of operation is a major consideration (such as when the intended user is not that technically minded), these are fitted. They are also generally used in test equipment, aerospace, and military equipment where the weatherproof models of these switches are fitted.
Slide/rocker switches are variations of the standard toggle version mentioned earlier in this article. The number of switches can vary up to 16 or more, so they are more versatile in function.
Despite technological advances in software control panels and programmable chips, DIP switches are still widely used because they present a low cost and relatively low tech option. Rotary switches are easier to operate, although slide and rocker switches are more versatile. This combination of cost and function would point to the continued attractiveness of this option for tech manufacturers for years to come.