The connection that allows two computer systems to communicate with each other and exchange the information necessary to perform their function is called an interface . This can be physical, logical or user and, for example, thanks to it we can give or. Commands to the computer using a mouse or keyboard.

What is an interface?

When we speak of interface, we refer to the system that is in charge of communicating with each other two computer systems, whatever the type, so that they can exchange information between them.

  • Interface definition
  • Characteristics
  • What is it for
  • Story
  • Elements
  • Features
  • Interface types
  • Importance
  • Interface examples

Interface definition

The interface can be defined as the connection that allows two computer elements (programs, peripherals, components) to communicate with each other and exchange information between them.



The main characteristic of the interface is that thanks to it, access to the different computing devices is quick and easy . Without it, the commands that we send to the computer with a single mouse click would be much slower and more rudimentary.

What is it for

The interface is something that many do not value, or do not even know that it exists because it is something that is not seen with the naked eye. Despite this, its usefulness is indisputable and its uses are numerous . Let’s see below what exactly it is for depending on the context in which it is used:

  • Interface as an instrument: in this case, peripherals such as the mouse allow us to transfer the actions that we carry out with our hands to the screen, and it is thanks to this that we can see how the cursor moves while we move our hand, working as well as a interface that connects us with the hard drive of our computer.
  • Interface as surface: in this case it is the surface of the object itself that transmits information. Thus, the object will allow us to know its characteristics, that is, in aspects such as its shape or color. For example, a soccer ball is spherical, white, and has seams.
  • Interface as space: in the latter context, the interface refers to the place where the exchange takes place.


In 1945,  Vannevar Bush , who understood that information sciences should be used to increase human capacities, showed, in an article called  “As We May Think”,  a tool that he baptized with the name of Memex ( Memory Extender) . which would be used for information management. Vannevar Bush, who was a disowned MIT scientist , designed what would be a device composed of a table, keyboard, levers and a translucent screen , which would be used to select some of the microfilms stored in it for later viewing . This apparatus would also allow the user to modify microfilms, the user becoming a consultant and creator.

Later, in the 1950s, Douglas Engelbart , based on the research of  Vannevar Bush , began to investigate at Stanford University how human-machine interaction could make the former drastically improve its capabilities. Thus he developed what he called the human-machine interface, which would lay the foundations for the interfaces with which we currently interact when using a computer.

This was not the only contribution of  Douglas Engelbart , because years later, in the early 60s, he became director of the ARC  (Augmentation Research Center) , which led to the development of the principle of overlapping windows (the antecedent of Xerox and Windows ), a software similar to the current Microsoft Word but much more rudimentary, communication between computers based mainly on text, and the use of the computer in combination with a screen and a keyboard to which he later added the mouse , what he invented , and With this he developed the principle of Point and Click .


An interface has different elements that can be classified as follows:

  • Identification elements: are those that identify the program, for example its name, logo, colors used.
  • Content elements: show information that is relevant to the user. For example, on a web page it would be the body of the article.
  • Navigation elements: these are the menus and buttons that allow us to access the different areas of the program.
  • Interaction elements: are all those areas with which the user can interact, ranging from a simple button to a box in which to enter information.


The interfaces have a large number of functions , some of the most outstanding are:

  • It allows us to turn the equipment on and off.
  • It shows us information about the status of a program.
  • It provides a communication system between different computers or programs, allowing them to exchange data.
  • It allows to control the equipment.
  • Provides tools so that we can create, delete, edit or copy files.
  • Provides help for ease of use.
  • Control access to applications.
  • Provides tools for developing applications.
  • It allows the user to configure the work environment to their liking.

Interface types

There are several types of interfaces that can be classified based on the way the user interacts with it or based on how it is constructed. Let’s look at both classifications:

Depending on how the user interacts

According to this classification we find the following types of user interfaces:

  • Alphanumeric interfaces: also known as command interpreters, in this case they only present numbers and letters.
  • Graphical user interfaces: also known as GUIs, they are those that use graphic elements such as figures or drawings to interact with them. They are easier to use, and much faster than alphanumeric interfaces.
  • Touch interfaces: they consist of a touch-sensitive screen that shows the user a series of buttons with which they can interact as if they were physical buttons. They are generally the most intuitive interfaces.

Depending on how it is built

Here are mainly two types, hardware or software, we are going to analyze them:

  • Hardware interfaces: they are the physical controls of a machine that allow the user to give orders and exchange information with it. They can be buttons, levers, keys, and even cranks. An example would be the physical buttons on a television.
  • Software interfaces: these are the programs that we use on a computer, tablet, mobile or smart watch. They allow us to send orders to the device we are using and see the response on the screen.


Thanks to the interface, communication between the user and the program he wants to use can be established.

One of the most important is the graphical interface, this tries to show the user the different actions that can be carried out by showing different images and objects on the screen.

If something should be highlighted, it is the importance of the interface being simple and intuitive so that the experience that the user has with it is the best possible and thus avoid being frustrated by not knowing how to do something or being unable to find it. The latter is more common than desirable because on many occasions users do not know how to use a program and end up leaving it aside due to lack of understanding.

Interface examples

  • game console has a command that allows us to send the actions that our character will carry out.
  • television has a remote control whose buttons allow us to change the channel, raise the volume or change the input signal.
  • On the mobile phone , thanks to the touch screen we can interact with it.

The buttons on the game console remote, the TV remote, and the mobile phone screen act as the user interface. Obviously, they are not the only devices that have this type of interface, a tablet, a smart watch, a laptop or an electronic book also have this type of interface.

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