Marvel at a 1980s Touchscreen

Think touchscreens are a relatively recent invention? Think again: As far back as 40 years ago, scientists were exploring the possibilities of using fingers to interact with a screen.

As demonstrated by the above video from 1982 (hat tip to Gizmodo for the link), their thinking wasn’t limited to capacitive or resistive touchscreens, which detect the pressure of a finger or stylus against glass; researchers also experimented with lining a PC screen with photodiodes that transmitted infrared. When someone touched the screen, it would break the infrared beam at a particular set of coordinates, giving the computer the data necessary to display something there.

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What did those early researchers envision as the best use for touchscreens? Writing your name, playing games, and controlling machinery. That’s a very limited set of functions, compared to all the ways that people use touchscreens today.

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Image: BritLab

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2 Responses to “Marvel at a 1980s Touchscreen”

February 18, 2015 at 11:16 am, Jose F. Medeiros said:

When my father Antonio Medeiros was laid off from Atari in 1985 as a manager in the QA department, he and Dr. Kennedy wanted to make a smart remote control that used voice recognition technology to change your television channels. The idea was great, but the technology of the day wasn’t ready yet for such a device. Could such a remote be made today, or integrated directly into a new television, I think it could based on Lithium Ion battery power duration, the power of today’s CPU’s, and the quality of the Nuance speech engine.

Jose F. Medeiros, The Unemployed IT Guy!
https://www.linkedin.com/in/josemedeiros

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February 18, 2015 at 5:46 pm, Steven Sarasin said:

This is excellent! The design is so simple, elegant if you will. It’s simple enough to seem obvious in hindsight, yet still impressive enough to be wowed at the demonstration.

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