The History of Touch Screen Technology – The 1990’s

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At its absolute simplest, a touch screen is a visual display interface (a screen) which produces an action when a particular point on the screen is touched. Devices such as tv logic monitors present users with multiple and simultaneous menu options that simply do not exist on standard display monitors. The roots of this particular aspect of high-performance LCD technology can be traced back to the late 1980’s when the gaming industry developed its prototype gaming consoles which had a colour touchscreen and display menus.

Pre-millennium touch screens.

By 1990, touch screen technology was firmly established, and industry literature was brimming with ideas, patents and theories as to how it would eventually revolutionise (and it clearly has) methods by which information is accessed and processed by human beings. In terms of basic computing by 1991 the first functioning keyboard touchscreens were launched, whereby skilled typists could work at a rate of 25-30 wpm. These screens also came with all the features one would expect from a word processing package, such as line ranging, object connection and internal scrolling. In addition by 1992 the first touch screen mobile phones were launched at about the same time that the first attempts at portable touch screen gaming consoles were launched. However, cost was still a major stumbling block and for gaming the technology simply could not cope with the demands of the applications (the games) themselves.

Features of the first smart phones

By the mid 1990’s, the term Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) was fully understood by those who owned the first generation of smartphones. These came with features that would be considered standard today but at the time were truly innovative. For example, you could access the internet on the move as well as schedule your meetings and input information in real-time. These devices were, generally speaking, the preserve of business people and were additionally popular because they contained handwriting and voice recognition software and were easily manipulated with the stylus they came equipped with. Such devices were produced until the turn of the new millennium and although there were operational problems as these were removed the scene was progressively set for the technology to begin to work its way into the mainstream. In short by the year 2000 multi-touch capacitive surfaces were set to become the standard on which modern touchscreen appliances are becoming increasingly based. The interface (the screen) itself is one part of the structure of innovation that has made the kinds of advances in technology possible. We now have ever faster and efficient processing power from ever smaller computer chips. However, in terms of touch screen technology it is the continued improvements in software that allow screens to accommodate the pressure of a human being’s pointing device; that is fingers as well as a stylus.

In terms of technology, the 1990’s was the decade in which touch screen technology in all its forms became more affordable and therefore more accessible and begin to work its way into the applications that exist in 2014. From digital menu boards, product catalogues, way-finding map screens and of course mobile phones and tablets, touch screen technology is now accessible to all.