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Why Did Touch Take Four Decades to Catch On?

theodp (442580) writes | more than 6 years ago

Input Devices 1

theodp writes "You probably saw media coverage of Bill Gates showing off touch-screen technology to his CEO play group last week. With the introduction of the iPhone and iPod Touch, touch (and multi-touch) technology — which folks like Ray Ozzie enjoyed as undergrads way back in the early '70s — has finally gone mainstream. The only question is: Why did it take four decades for its overnight success? Some suggest the expiration of significant patents filed during '70s and '80s may have had something to do with it — anything else?"

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Don't touch me! (1)

Mike Rice (626857) | more than 6 years ago | (#23447730)

My first experience with 'touch' was about 1979, when I was an 'Industrial Electronics' technician. We were to evaluate the possibility of using touch screens in a factory environment. This was a dirty, hot, gritty, greasy environment, where keyboard failures were the order of the day. 'Touch' terminals seemed like a way to bypass the keyboard problem.

We set up three terminals in a training room, and brought worker bees in at intervals to observe how well they adapted to 'touch'. Within two hours every terminal had failed... the capacitive tech did not cope very well with the amount of grease left behind with these guys fingerprints.

Over the following two years we evaluated infrared based terminals, which did OK in the training room but failed miserably out on the factory floor.

Moral of the story... successful experiments in academic settings do not always translate to success in the field... the early implementations of 'touch' were just to fragile for general use.
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