Modern society demands products and services that deliver results, feedback and satisfaction quickly. Fast food, 4G phones and SparkNotes, to name a few, were all designed to give the user a quicker and easier experience. One of the latest trends that help to make life easier is the touch screen.
Invented in the 1970s, the earliest touch screens were not intended for consumer use and were utilized by research companies. This changed in the 1980s with the HP-150, the world’s first commercial touch screen computer, and the technology has been in consumer hands ever since. As technology progressed, touch screens became smaller. They were controlled with a stylus, and used primarily in PDAs, and later, they became popular in the Nintendo DS. These touch screens were costly, slow and unresponsive. All of this changed in 2007, when Apple announced the iPhone, which, although still expensive, used capacitive touch screen technology that changed the touch screen from a stylus driven nightmare to a responsive finger-driven intuitive interface.
Today, touch screens are incorporated into nearly all newly-released cell phones. Some tablet computers are built with no keyboard and only a touch screen. These technologies provide the speed and feedback necessary to be successful.
Unlike older phones and devices that require navigating dozens of menus with arrow buttons and numerous selections to change a simple yet impossible to find setting, touch screens allow for easier navigation and, as a result, a more user friendly operating system. With a tap of the finger, one can view all their emails, messages or contacts. With a swipe of the finger, one can scan their entire music library, or flip the pages of a virtual book. With the natural movements involved and such a responsive system, nearly anybody of any age can use a touch screen.
The benefits of both touch screen-based phones and computers can be seen in most professions and generally in everyday life. Businessmen can use tablet computers to control presentations or make last-minute changes to that presentation from literally anywhere in the world. Artists can use touch screens as a medium to create art with their finger as the brush and the screen as the canvas opening a whole new level of interactivity. Graphic designers or photographers can take an image with their phone and edit it right on the spot using professional tools, then upload it to the internet without the use of a computer. This streamlines the process. The gap between the time a news story occurs and when the public sees and reads about it can be almost nonexistent.
Another application of touch screens which has proven quite successful is gaming, thanks to the lack of buttons or complicated control schemes. According to a new study by research firm NewZoo, approximately 40.1 million users of iDevices (iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad) use their product for gaming. Meanwhile, there have been 41 million DS units sold and the DS was released in 2004, three years before the iPhone. Given the successful nature of browser-based flash games and the success of portable games which are similar in design (easy to play for a short amount of time yet incredibly addicting), this is not a surprise.
As touch screens grow in popularity, more and more companies are investing in the technology. Recently announced was Research in Motion’s Blackberry Playbook, which utilizes the latest graphic and processing power to deliver a computer, personal organizer, gaming system and high-definition camera all in one. And this is only the beginning for touch-screen technology. As the desire for faster and simpler systems grows, so, too, will the implication of the touch screen into everyday life. Models already exist for touch screens built into television remotes, cars and even coffee tables. So get your pointer finger ready it is going to be doing a great deal of work in the near future.