Did Apple invent the touch screen?
One of the most frequently asked questions in tech circles is, “What on Earth was Apple doing to come up with the ‘touch screen’?” Many people are quite surprised to learn that Apple was not involved in the conception of the touch screen. In fact, according to Steve Jobs himself, it was Microsoft that came up with the idea for a touch screen, and Apple quickly agreed to work with Microsoft on the project. While it was never officially developed by Apple, many consumers still confuse the two companies for Touch Types.
In order to understand what Apple was actually doing with its Macintosh computer, it helps to first take a look at how touchscreen technology works. Modern touchscreen devices make use of a resistive or capacitive interaction surface that senses physical touch. The screen then reads this as a simple push of the finger, or more sophisticated touch movements, such as a stylus. This physical interaction takes place without the use of a computer mouse, which was an integral part of the interaction known as the “click wheel”, or a rotating trackball that often appeared on laptop computers. The use of a mouse was, essentially, the first true attempt at multitasking, as the mouse was capable of running multiple programs at once while being used to operate the screen. As new technologies emerged, such as Bluetooth, which made it possible to link a keyboard to a computer over a wireless connection, the role of the mouse gradually became obsolete.
Touchscreens have since evolved into much more complex devices. Today’s models can allow users to interact with applications using both a stylus and a finger. In many cases, they can even use their entire hand to manipulate the screen. The latest models offer extremely sensitive levels of response, which means that a user can scroll up and down menus with a mere twitch of the fingers. In some cases, the pressure sensitivity of today’s models allows users to pinch in order to zoom in and out.
So, did Apple just invent multi-tasking? It may not seem so at face value, but many think that multitasking is as old as the invention of the wheel. It is, in fact, a phenomenon that has been around since the earliest days of computing, when typewriters allowed users to input information into the machine by pressing several keys simultaneously. Today, we take advantage of the same simplicity by tapping on a virtual keyboard on our smartphones.
There are two major advantages to multitasking on a smartphone or tablet computer. One is that the interface allows the user to quickly respond to an incoming call without having to leave the current application. This is a notably different experience than what we would typically have on a traditional handheld computer. Another advantage is that the phones of today are built to allow easy navigation through multiple applications at once.
With so many improvements in the hardware and software of today’s smartphones, it seems as if we may be seeing a new revolution. multitasking may very well be one of the most important technological advancements in the recent history of mobile devices. We’ve only scratched the surface of the new frontier, but one day, perhaps even phones themselves will have multiple function buttons.