Pre-configuring equipment helps in many ways. In the field, the ability to pre-configure functionality eases installation procedures, helps in diagnostics, and reduces downtime. DIP switches are very popular for pre-configuring devices and an increase in their demand is accelerating the flexibility in their design.
Although designers nowadays prefer to use re-programmable memories and software menus in equipment, DIP switches customizing the behavior of electronic devices was have always been present. DIP switches present an easy-to-use method for changing the functionality that anyone even without software knowledge can use. An added advantage of DIP switches over software menus is the former allows change even when the equipment has no power.
Engineers developed the DIP switch in the 1970s, and their usefulness remains relevant even after five decades, for instance, for changing the modality of a video game or for fine-tuning the operation of a machine on the shop floor. Now, engineers are finding new uses for this proven technology in innovative applications such as the IoT or Internet of Things.
Depending on present requirements, manufacturers now present a large variety of DIP switches for modern applications. It is now easy to find surface mount versions of DIP switches, with SPST or single pole single throw, SPDT or single pole double throw configurations, or multi-pole single and double throw options. Piano type side actuated DIP switches, side DIP switches, and DIP switches in sealed and unsealed versions are also available readily off the shelf.
Originally, DIP switches were a stack of manually operated electric switches available in a compact DIP or dual-in-line package with pins. The configuration of the pins of a DIP switch was the same as that of an IC with leads, which made it easy for a designer to incorporate in the printed circuit board. It was usual for each switch to have two rows of pins, one on each side. The distance between the rows was 0.3”, while the pitch or gap between adjacent pins was 0.1”. By taking advantage of the same mounting technique as that of an IC, the DIP switch provided a compact switching mechanism that designers could place directly on the PCB.
By stacking DIP switches side by side, the designer could add as many switches to the circuit as necessary. The versatility of the DIP switch lay in the numerous configurations achievable. For instance, it is possible to generate an incredible 256 combinations from an eight-position DIP switch. Each switch can assume one of two ways, and an eight switches combination can assume one of 256 ways (2 to the eight power).
Earlier, digital electronics mostly used eight bits to a byte, which made the eight-position DIP switch more of a standard at the time. With advancements, digital electronics now encompasses 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, and even 256 bits, generating a great demand for DIP switches with new designs.
DIP switches are easier for the user as they offer a visual indication of the present setup. For manufacturers, DIP switches make it easier to customize their production, at the same time, allowing the user to make changes as necessary.