Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Touch screen technology isn't a particularly new development, but it's becoming more and more common among gadgets that are coming onto the market these days. Touch screens have actually existed in one form or another for a couple of decades now in the form of screens that could respond to light pens so that people could actually draw images or write directly onto their computer screens.
Some of the first gadgets that took full advantage of touch screen technology were the PDA's of the nineteen nineties with the touch sensitive screens and the styluses that were used to right on them. (These gadgets are actually still in existence today.) Since then, touch screens have found there way into laptop computers that work much like their smaller predecessors. These laptop computer have screens that can turn one hundred and eighty degrees and fold flat against the body of the computer, so that the entire device can be used as a tablet to write on.
Touch screen technology also serves as the primary input device for a new breed of computers that have all of the capabilities of normal laptop computer- some even run the memory hogging Windows Vista- but do away with the clam shell type design in favor of the screen being included in the body of these devices. The touch screen isn't the only type of input device on these tablet computers. They also have various buttons, and some even have small keyboards built in for thumb typing, but the touch screen does serve as a useful supplement to these other kinds of input devices.
The area in which touch screens show the greatest promise is in portable gadgets. One might wonder how portable gadgets could benefit from having touch screens built in. After all, smaller gadgets should have more limited functionality and therefore have less of a need for variety and flexibility among input devices. While it's true that smaller gadgets have traditionally had less functionality than larger ones, electronics technology has gotten to the point where the ability to put ample user interface features on a gadget is more of a limitation to how small it can get than the actual electronics that can be packed into a small size. For example, the limiting factor when it comes to making a smaller smart phone is more a function of the amount of space that the keypad and screen require.
Touch screen technology gets around that limitation by providing a way for to use the screen as an input device, thereby doing away with the keypad completely. This really serves two purposes. First it allows the screen to take up a greater proportion of the gadget's face. Second, it allows the keypad or keyboard to be minimized in size, or even eliminated completely!
There are a number of prominent gadgets that take advantage of touch screen technology to at least some extent. They include the Archos 605 WiFi, the Prada phone, and of course the iPhone. The iPod touch is also hot on the heals of the iPhone. As these gadgets become better recognized, we'll surely see more touch screen technology showing up in a wider variety of gadgets and settings.