A normal PC has no muscles, but we can give it some. In fact we can give it the ability to do lots of things by connecting a range of actuators to it…
An actuator is a device, controlled by a computer, that can affect the real-world.
Examples of actuators, and what they can do are...
|Actuator||What it Can Do|
|Light bulb or LED||Creates light|
|Cooling Unit||Decreases temperature|
|Motor||Spins things around|
|Pump||Pushes water / air through pipes|
|Buzzer / Bell / Siren||Creates noise|
Actuators are used extensively in computer control systems.
For example, the motor in a washing machine can be controlled by a computer - it is switched on when the clothes are loaded for washing and switched off at the end of the wash.
Computer-controlled motors are also found in microwave ovens (to turn the food around) and air-conditioning units (to drive the fan)
Pumps are used in many places: as part of watering systems in greenhouses, in factories, etc.
For example, the buzzer in a microwave oven can be switched on by the controlling computer when the food is cooked.
Louder noises can be made using a siren or an electric bell, for example in a burglar alarm system.
For example, computer-controlled lights are used in traffic lights, at music concerts. Lights are used in car dashboards to show if the any of the systems in the car have problems.
Heaters / Coolers
A computer can switch a heater on or off when needed to keep a room or a greenhouse at the correct temperature during winter.
A computer can switch a cooling unit on or off to keep a room at the correct temperature during hot weather, or to keep food fresh.