DIP Switch Jargon Explained

A DIP switch is a small manual electric switch usually packaged with other electrical components. In electronics, the acronym DIP stands for “Dual In-line Package” and the term DIP switch could either refer to each switch on the circuit, or the unit as a whole. DIP switches are usually designed to be used on a Printed Circuit Board (PCB), alongside other electrical circuits.

They can be used not only on PCBs but also in expansion slot cards or other computer peripherals and they carry out one major function which is to control the flow of electricity around the electronic component. DIP switches are therefore capable of changing the mode of operation of an electronic device.

Exteriorly, DIP switches are more or less like a series of miniature regular light switches. These switches are displayed in a row with a toggle-like feature (on/off) and are mounted on a block of thermoplastic polymer that offers light resistance to heat.

How to Operate DIP Switches

Due to the small size of the DIP switch, some prowess on the user’s part would be required to toggle each switch between the on and off positions.

This function is typically carried out with the pointed end of a sharp pencil or a similarly shaped tool, as the individual switches are too small to be operated by the human fingers.

Applications of DIP Switches

  1. PC Expansion Cards: DIP Switches are utilized in the architecture of PC expansion cards to select memory addresses and IRQs.
  2. Arcade Game Machines: In the 1980s and early 1990s, DIP switches were used to enter game settings before the introduction of cheaper RAM that is run by batteries.
  3. Garage Door Openers: DIP switches are used to set security codes on garage doors and also to avoid interference from other nearby door remote controls.
  4. Remote Controls: DIP switches are likewise used in remote controls to prevent interference by setting up a different address for each transmitter/receiver pair.
  5. Computer Peripherals: DIP switches are also used in motherboards, video cards, hard drives, modems, expansion slots, and a host of other hardware components.

DIP Switches Now?

Upon its release, DIP Switches became increasingly popular because it served as a great alternative to Jumper Blocks. Their main advantage is that they can quickly change positions without losing any part.

However, the use of DIP switches has reduced significantly in recent times due to the emergence of software configurations that are easily customizable and do not require manual controls.

DIP switches are however still used to carry out some functions particularly in the industrial sector, as they provide a cost-effective solution for circuit design and offer more convenience in checking their configuration without having to turn the system on.

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