Technology Spotlight: The Touchscreen

HOPE BASILLE

touchscreen
Source: Mental Floss

Touchscreens now seem ubiquitous. From everyday technology to the foodservice industry, touchscreens dominate our daily lives. At the same time, many of us have no idea how they work!

This begs the question: why are they so common? Essentially, touchscreen prices, like the rest of modern tech, are comparatively cheap compared to other advanced tech a decade ago.

Touchscreens have been around since its inception in 1965 by E.A. Johnson. Most technology now uses either resistive, capacitive, or surface acoustic waves. The one  we encounter the most in our everyday lives through the use of touchscreen phones is the capacitive technology. Capacitive technology is the most reliable because there is a much better rate of detection than other technologies.

The iPhone, Droid Eris, and Blackberry Storm all use capacitive touchscreens. Each phone has a glass screen. Covering the glass screen is a transparent conductor layer, which stores an electrical charge. This layer acts as a sort of grid.

The sensors in the screen work with the body’s natural conductivity to sense where we are touching. When a finger touches the screen some of the electrical charges from the screen are transferred to our finger, and the charge on the screen is distorted. The phone can then uses the location of the drop in electrical charge to determine where the user is touching the screen.

One of the main issues with using conductive technology is that they are unusable when there is an insulator in between the user and the screen. That is why touchscreens are unable to work when we wear gloves. However, there are now gloves that have conductive fingertips.

Touchscreens are still a relatively new technology, but they have quickly gained popularity. They continue to make great improvements and find introduce adaptations into our daily lives. Now you understand a little bit more about how they work!  

Sources:

http://computer.howstuffworks.com/question716.htm

http://mentalfloss.com/article/31378/how-do-touchscreens-work

http://scienceline.org/2012/01/okay-but-how-do-touch-screens-actually-work/

http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/04/from-touch-displays-to-the-surface-a-brief-history-of-touchscreen-technology/

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