The Evolution of Touchscreen Technology

Today, touchscreens are ubiquitous in consumer electronics, but they have a much longer history than you might imagine. Much of the early research dates back to the mid-20th century, and the first touchscreens were developed in the 1960s and ’70s.

Though early work was done in recognising finger input on mechanical surfaces, the most common touchscreens—those with a surface that ‘feels’ your touch and converts it into information—incorporate capacitive sensing. This technology was first developed by E A Johnson, who is credited with creating the first finger-driven touchscreen. His early work with capacitive sensing, starting at the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern, UK, led to his invention of a capacitive touchscreen in 1965.

But it officially wasn’t until 1973 that Samuel Hurst, an American inventor, created the Elograph, the first widespread touchscreen. It was created as a resistive touchscreen that read coordinate positions, but its uses went far beyond the original idea. Hurst jump-started the technology for future touch devices.

Touchscreen Technology Enters the Consumer Market

However, the development of touchscreens for the consumer market really began in earnest in the late 1980s and early ’90s. The IBM Simon Personal Communicator, released in 1992, was among the first ­consumer touchscreen devices. Its cellphone/PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) combo had a monochrome touchscreen.

However, a true innovation breakthrough was achieved in 2007 with the first iPhone produced by Apple, Inc. The late Steve Jobs told the world that this cell phone could also be an iPod and an internet communicator in one. More significantly, the iPhone’s capacitive touchscreen, with multi-touch gestures, allowed a new standard platform for user interfaces. After the iPhone came out, almost the entire consumer electronics industry started using touchscreen technology.

Modern Devices Utilising Touchscreen Technology

Touchscreens are everywhere today. Capacitive touchscreens are rapidly becoming the standard display technology for mobile computers of all kinds. Smartphones and tablets now carry the expectation of being touch-activated; indeed, few modern mobile phones and almost no tablets are sold today that don’t have a capacitive touch screen capable of recognising multi-touch gestures.

These laptops and desktop monitors are equipped with touchscreens, enabling computer users to reach out and touch their screens. Microsoft Surface and a host of 2-in-1 laptops are examples of hybrid devices that provide the best of both worlds in terms of interacting with 21st-century computers and one another.

Thus, touchscreens are ubiquitous in portable gaming devices such as the Nintendo Switch, and mobile gaming is often achieved via a touch interface, too. We also experience touchscreens in our smartwatches and other wearables as small-form use cases.

Industries Relying on Touchscreen Technology

The touchscreen is now an essential part of an array of consumer and business sectors and is growing in usage and functionality daily.

Online Casino Industry

The online casino industry has thrived thanks to touchscreen technology, as more and more people acquire smartphones and tablet devices ready to play interactive casino games and demo slots using intuitive touch controls.

More and more people can now play from more places, thanks to sensible, quick interfaces that have reduced the technical obstacles to providing a high-quality gaming experience on a smartphone or tablet. People can now spin slots, place bets on virtual roulette tables and blackjack games, and interact with live dealers via touch-based interfaces, and the games get better and better at offering an enjoyable, fully-featured gaming experience.

MOBA Gaming

Especially in a genre that is still growing, like Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs), the border between mobile and PC games is not as clear-cut on tablets. For example, Arena of Valor and Vainglory MOBAs have drastically different gameplay based on touchscreen controls. Tapping, swiping, and general gesturing are far more precise and responsive than alternatives using symbols or cursor controls, making them a valuable input method and a huge part of the immersion and speed of gameplay. For that alone, the difference on my end is night and day when competing on tablet versus computer.

Other Industries

Beyond gaming, touchscreens have revolutionised several other industries.

Medical field

Nowadays, touchscreen devices are seeing increasing use in the medical field. They are employed on diagnostic equipment, patient monitoring systems, and electronic health records (EHR) systems, where healthcare providers can access information or enter data rapidly and efficiently.


Touchscreen kiosks and POS (point-of-sale) systems have changed retail, allowing customers to interact with products using a touchscreen, place orders, and pay. Self-service kiosks are now ubiquitous in fast-food outlets, supermarkets, and airports.

Round Up

As touch has transformed from a science fiction contraption to a touchscreen at our fingertips, it has permeated the world of consumer electronics and industry. From early resistive sensors to today’s sophisticated multi-touch capacitive screens, touch technology has cemented itself as a fundamental part of human-computer interaction. As technology continues to improve, we can only imagine what form it will take and what tasks it will be applied to in our everyday lives.

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