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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2 Responses to “Marvel at a 1980s Touchscreen”

  1. 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!