Because they seemed to explode into our everyday lives, it seems like touchscreen technology must have undergone some radical technical revolution in the last few years – a breakthrough of some kind that moved touch inputs from science fiction to science fact. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Although the multi-touch devices that currently fill our lives were made possible by recent innovations in materials and circuit miniaturization, the thinking behind touchscreen technologies has been evolving through the science and tech communities for more than 45 years. Since the first finger-driven touch screen was invented in 1965 by E.A. Johnson of the Royal Radar Establishment in the United Kingdom, a loose-knit community of researchers, scientists, university faculty, engineers and inventors have worked on taking the clumsy and crude (at the time) input method and refining it into the precise method of interacting with tech devices we have today.
The folks at ARS Technica recently published a history of touch technology as part of their Touch of the Future series. It’s a great summary of how touch moved from heavy glass touchscreen panels to the light, flexible and durable screens we use today. If you are interested in the science that drives your tablet screen, you will enjoy these articles.