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Where do I plug a switch into my computer?

by Michael O'Leary


This is our most frequently asked question!
The answer is that standard computers don’t have a socket in which to plug a switch!

So these are the options:

  1. Switch Adapted Mouse
  2. USB Port Switch Interface
  3. Serial Port Switch Interface
  4. Keyboard Port Switch Interface
  5. Switch Adapted Keyboard or IntelliKeys
  6. Discover Switch / Discover Ke:nx
  7. Dongles

  1. Switch Adapted Mouse

    A Switch Adapted Mouse is a mouse (or track ball or joystick mouse) that has a switch socket (typically a 3.5 mm phono socket) installed into the device. The socket is wired across (in parallel with) the left mouse button. When a switch is plugged into the socket, the switch performs the same function as the left mouse button, that is a Mouse Click

    Many single switch software programs that have been developed will operate with a Mouse Click. These programs are sometimes referred to as “Cause-and-Effect” programs, meaning that they are used to establish the notion that one presses a switch (the Cause) to make something happen (the Effect).

    A Switch Adapted Mouse is a relatively inexpensive way to attach a switch to a computer. The limitation is that some switch activated programs require the switch to emulate something other than a mouse click.

    Spectronics offers a switch adapted mouse upon request.

  1. USB Port Switch Interface (Wired and Wireless)

    Most modern PCs and Macs now have USB ports. These USB Port Switch Interface plugs into one of the USB ports on your computer. Crick USB Switch Interface, DJ Switch Interface Pro 5.0, JoyBox USB Switch Adaptor, JoyCable 2 USB Switch Adapter are examples of USB Port Switch Interfaces that let you plug a switch to your computer. IntelliSwitch is another one that features wireless connection enabling you to locate switch away from the computer and without the messy wires.

  1. Serial Port Switch Interface

    *Now superseded by USB Switch interfaces (see above)

    A Serial Port Switch Interface plugs into the Serial Port of a computer. Serial ports may have 25 pins or 9 pins. This is why some switch interfaces come with a 25 pin to 9 pin adaptor. On laptops serial ports usually have 9 pins. Crick Software offer the Clicker Serial Switch Interface which plugs into the Serial Port and has two sockets which emulate the Left Arrow and the Up Arrow keys of the keyboard.

  1. Keyboard Port Switch Interface

    There are a number of these available commercially. They plug into the same port as the keyboard. The keyboard usually plugs into a socket provided on the switch interface. They try to offer switch emulations to cater for as many switch activated programs as are available.

    An example of a switch interface for both Apple computers and PC’s is the DJ Switch Interface PRO for Windows and Macintosh

    Another example is the Inclusive SwitchBox for PC’s.

    Note: in order to emulate a Mouse Click on a PC it is necessary to turn on Mouse Keys in the Accessibility Options within the Control Panel. This is explained in our FAQ section under DJ PC Switch Interface: Technical Tips

    On older Apple Macs, the Switch Interfaces are plugged into the ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) port into which the keyboard and the mouse is plugged. More recent Apple computers (iMacs and iBooks) only have USB ports for the connection of peripheral devices such as keyboard, mouse etc. With these computers it is necessary to use an ADB to USB adaptor to connect the switch interface. The most reliable adaptor is the iMate from Griffin Technology. The Griffin iMate should be available from your local Apple Computer store. For more information click iMacs and iMates

  1. IntelliKeys

    Don’t forget that IntelliKeys has two switch sockets on the left hand side of the keyboard.
    IntelliKeys is a convenient and flexible switch interface and works with a wide variety of switch software. It’s an ideal tool for integrating your switch user with IntelliKeys and mouse users. The IntelliKeys “Classic” has cables for connection to Macs and to PC’s, while the new IntelliKeys USB Version will connect to iMacs and PC’s which have a USB port.

  1. Discover Switch / Discover Ke:nx

    *Now superseded by IntelliSwitch (see above)

    The Discover:Switch offers a sophisticated suite of tools for operating a computer with a switch, while Discover:Kenx offers the same for switch access, but allows other interface to connected also.

  1. Dongles

    What’s a Dongle? No it’s not what Scouts use to tie their green scarf.

    A Dongle, such as used with Words+ Scanning WSKE, is a piece of hardware that plugged into a computer (usually the printer port). Switches could be plugged into the Dongle for making the onscreen keyboard scan.

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