The History of Touch Screen Technology and Types

Touch screens are everywhere in our homes, cars, restaurants, stores, planes etc.  I looked into touch screen technology further to see the touch screen technology Apple iPads and tablets use and which would work best for this application.

There are 4 types of touch screen technology:

  • Resistive
    • Uses two layers
    • When the two layers touch when pressed by your finger it completes it circuit
    • thought not to be as touch responsive as capacitive technology, responds better to presure
  • Arcoustic
    • Uses sound waves
    • When something interrupts the sound waves it registers as touch
  • Capacitive
    • Uses electrical charges from fingers, works by constantly monitoring the electrical field of the screen.  Since your body conducts electricity, touching the screen alters this field.
    • Circuit must have your finger to activate
    • Uses program to see where you have activated
  • Infrared
    • Uses infrared beams
    • If you interrupt the infra-red beams it registers as touch

Tablet technology

There are tablets on the market using both resistive (Zenithink ZT-180) and capacitive technology (Samsung Galaxy Tab).  The Apple iPad uses capacitive technology this allows the system to easily detect a touch anywhere on the surface of the screen.  The iPad screen incorporates multi-touch technology which also allows the system to interpret multiple contacts, such as those when you zoom pictures by pinching or moving your fingers apart.


  • The advantage of the capacitive design is in the ease of use and is thought more responsive.
  • The reduction in the amount of force needed to signal a touch means less wear and tear on the screen.
  • Can detect contacts even through certain types of screen protectors, allowing you to add a layer of protection to your iPad’s screen without significantly reducing its sensitivity.

History of the touch screen

The first touch screen device was believed to have been developed in 1965 by E.A. Johnson at the Royal Radar Establishment, Malvern, UK.

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In 1993, IBM and BellSouth teamed up to launch the Simon Personal Communicator, one of the first cellphones with touchscreen technology. It featured paging capabilities, an e-mail and calendar application, an appointment schedule, an address book, a calculator, and a pen-based sketchpad. It also had a resistive touchscreen that required the use of a stylus to navigate through menus and to input data.


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In 2002, Sony introduced a flat input surface that could recognize multiple hand positions and touch points at the same time. The company called it SmartSkin. The technology worked by calculating the distance between the hand and the surface with capacitive sensing and a mesh-shaped antenna. Unlike the camera-based gesture recognition system in other technologies, the sensing elements were all integrated into the touch surface. The ultimate goal of the project was to transform surfaces that are used every day, like your average table or a wall, into an interactive one.  The large multi touch screen at the Cleveland Museum of Art is an example of this and how this technology has evolved.Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 14.39.49





This technology has had a huge impact on the gadgets we use today; it is exciting to imagine how this technology will develop with new not yet designed devices of the future.