Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Input Devices GUI Microsoft Software Technology

Why Did Touch Take 4 Decades to Catch On? 245

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?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Why Did Touch Take 4 Decades to Catch On?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17, 2008 @05:01PM (#23447774)
    Touchscreens are visual interfaces, keyboards/-pads are haptic interfaces. For most devices, keys make more sense because they're always in the same place and the touch feedback makes it possible to use them without looking. I do not want a touchscreen remote control, for example. Touchscreens only make sense for complicated or multi-function devices and those haven't been portable very long.
  • Jeff Han and YouTube (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17, 2008 @05:06PM (#23447804)

    YouTube Link (1.9+m views) (2003) []

    TED Talk []

    while Jeff didnt invent multitouch, he certainly brought it to the attention of a lot of people with a good demo and a few teaser apps (maps) to show what could be done
    MS, Apple and chums have a lot to thank him for as far as raising public awareness of different UI and OS possibilities, using a mouse/qwerty keyboard should not be a fundamental of interacting with computers
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 17, 2008 @05:06PM (#23447806)
    touch is junk and nothing out there that people buy uses it. MULTI-TOUCH caught on. multi touch was invented by two professors at the university of delaware, who founded a company that made the greatest keyboard of all time, the touchstream lp. jobs saw the inherent promise of multi-touch and bought the company and all its ip, in the process making everyone sign nondisclosure agreements and burying the company. the price of the greatest keyboard ever made, no longer available due to job's actions, has rocketed to over $1000 on ebay and keeps going up.

    a lot of you are reading this and thinking of non multi touch products that are getting some sales; however they use the fundamental tech that makes multi touch work. multi touch was about figuring out the shape and pressure of the fingers being applied, in addition to distinguishing multiple fingers. this eliminates the "palm brush" problem that plagued early touch pads.,2845,1039254,00.asp [] []

    it took a long time for people to figure out what happened; in the end one of the delaware professors listed his profession as 'apple engineer' on a public political contribution and the mystery of the jobs touchstream "nuclear option" was solved.

    the reason it's caught on "just now" is that it's actually brand new technology. hopefully someone someday will undo that damage that apple has done to the multitouch industry by buring it under NDA's and patents. in the meantime, they have usurped microsoft for title of tech company most damaging to progress. let's see how long they can hold the crown.
  • by AppleOSuX ( 1080499 ) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @05:51PM (#23448064)
    Millions of iPhones are still only 2% of the cell phone market and only 20% of the smart phone market (if that). Far from mainstream.

    See: []
  • Gorilla Arm (Score:3, Informative)

    by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @07:48PM (#23448950)
    Link [].
  • by ( 142825 ) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @09:56PM (#23449716) Homepage
    I worked at Carroll Touch [] for a while on Touch screen drivers for their IR and Guided wave products. Before that in 1990-1992 I worked at Laser Plot and worked on adding touch screen for their Ship Navigation Systems.

    The problem that many applications ran into is that people have fat fingers. A mouse is much more precise than a finger. Many people who looked at Touch technology just treated it like a mouse, which makes for a had interface. When people get exposed to a mouse/keyboard interface converted into touch, they repulsed by touch and never look back.

    If you design an interface from the start to be touch based, you can get a very nice interface.
  • by mr_matticus ( 928346 ) on Saturday May 17, 2008 @10:46PM (#23450004)
    I'll second that. At first I thought spending $100 for a remote control was just absurd, but I realized I hadn't bought a new toy in a while, so I went for it, fully prepared to be underwhelmed.

    It's incredible how much easier my life has become as a result. Even though I'm intimately aware of the ins and outs of my entertainment system, it's still tedious to have to set the right input on the TV (receiver outputs HDMI, component, and S-video for different functions [S-video is required for the on-screen display of my CD changer and receiver]), then on the receiver [even though my H/K receiver supports input naming, so I don't actually need to know what Video3 is], and then dicking around with Comcast's remote.

    Now, after about an hour doing the initial software install, setup, and then some personal customizations, I just press "watch DVD" and it turns on any components that aren't already on (leaving the others alone), sets all the right inputs (and the proper video mode and aspect ratio on my TV). I replaced 6 remotes in my entertainment room.

    Then I realized that I could control just about anything with an RF receiver (my iMac, my MacBook Pro, my MythTV box in the spare room, the ceiling fan in my bedroom, and even, with a little modification, a special switch I built to control the lights in my saltwater aquarium (so that the blue glow doesn't distract during a nighttime movie session).

    The learning function ensures that anything using z-wave iR can be programmed, with logical operation names that even my parents can use when they visit. Guests don't have to ask how to get to the DVR or how to get the sound to work when watching TV.

    With this puff-piece ad coming to a close, I will say that I think the higher-end Harmony remotes are overrated, and that the lower models are generally more than sufficient for almost anyone, including geeks (just make sure to check the remote's limit as to number of devices before purchase).

"You can have my Unix system when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." -- Cal Keegan