A dual in-line package (DIP) switch is a small packaged set of switches, commonly installed on circuit boards, that are used in consumer and industrial devices. DIP switches, sometimes written as "dip switches," are on-off switches arranged in a line and packaged in a small box or housing. A DIP switch's function is to provide a range of electrical inputs to a computer or electronic device based on the position of the switches.
The switches can be slide, toggle or rotary styles. As each switch is positioned on or off, the DIP switch can create an electrical signal that imitates a binary signal common to computers that use the numerals 0 and 1 to perform complex calculations. A rotary DIP switch has advantages over simple switches by permitting multiple choices that result in different electrical signals from the switch, versus a simple "on" or "off" position.
DIP switches were common on computer circuit boards until the 1990s, when digital switches began to replace them. Consumer applications such as garage door openers, ceiling fan remote controls and wireless phones continued to use DIP switches into the 21st century. Home remote control devices can benefit from a DIP switch because the device might interfere with other electronics in the home. When a DIP switch is connected to a remote control transmitter, changing the switch settings can remove interference by creating a different frequency for the remote control.
Binary control is still a valuable use of a DIP switch. Computers use processors that perform calculations by designating a value of 0 or 1. DIP switches mimic this effect because each switch position is "on" or "off," the manual equivalent of a 0 or 1. For small consumer electronic products, a DIP switch might be a cost-effective substitute for digital control processors, particularly when the device needs to have different switch positions available to the user.
As digital processors have replaced mechanical switches and components since the 1970s, so have digital DIP switches begun to replace mechanical styles. A digital switch performs an identical function to a mechanical switch, but there is no physical switch to access. Digital DIP switches are managed from a control panel or computer screen. The interface might appear similar to a mechanical switch, with virtual switches that can be turned on or off with a keyboard or computer mouse. There is no longer a mechanical switch to manipulate, however, and the switch components are greatly reduced in size.