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.
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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