The History of Touch Screen Technology


14-07-2017 - Swiping a touch screen has become natural behavior. We automatically assume we can swipe any display screen. But when was the first touch screen actually invented?

Nowadays when we think of touch screens, we tend to think of the consumer products we love - smartphones and tablets. These touch optimized products are widely available around the world and honestly? We can't live without them.

Touch screen technology has been around longer than you think though. Long before we started swiping every screen we see, the first touch screens came to life.

Technology historians say touch screen technology began in the music industry when touch sensitive synthesizers were developed. In 1948 Hugh Le Caine came up with the Electronic Sackbut. A device that required a piano keyboard and control board.

The instrument's player could use touch to control the volume by putting pressure on the keys. And they could change the music's texture options through the control board.

After this futuristic touch screen technology innovation nothing happened for a couple of decades. So lets fast forward to the 1960's when touch screen technology was first combined with computer technology.


Bonus: Get a free comparison chart of the touch screen technologies we use today to save, reference or e-mail to colleagues. Click here to get it free.

1960's - Capactive Touch Screen Technology

The foundation of the touch screens we know today starts in 1965. That's when E.A. Johnson discovered the benefits of touch screen technology and invented the first finger-driven touch screen.

He published his creation in an article called 'Touch display - a novel input/output device for computers'. The article featured a diagram as well, describing a technology that we still use today in ATM and kiosk applications. Capacitive touch screen technology.


1970's - Resistive Touch Screen Technology

The resistive touch screen was realized 5 years later in 1970, by Dr. G. Samuel Hurst. Resistive touch screen technology quickly outshone its predecessor. Dr. Hurst actually invented this type of touch screen technology by accident during a scientific experiment.

He later spent some time perfecting the touch screen and realized the benefits of touch screens when he placed it over a computer monitor. Today resistive touch screens are the cheapest of its kind and widely used in restaurants and factories around the world. Taking advantage of it's durability.


[ Further Reading - The History of Display Technology ]


1980's - First Commercial Use

In the early 1980's touch screens were used more frequently and in more diverse applications. Hewlett-Packard commercialized touch screens by launching the HP-150. The first touch computer.

The University of Toronto then took a great step in the development of touch screen technology. They discovered multi touch. In 1982 they invented the first human-controlled multi-touch device. A touch screen that could detect multiple touch points.

The advantages and benefits of multi touch screens were endless. Multi touch screens allowed users to manipulate objects with their fingers with excellent response times.

The discovery of multi touch screen technology turned out to be of great importance to the smart phones and tablets we use today.


1990's - First Touch Phone

In 1993 IBM and BellSouth came up with the first phone with a touch screen interface - the Simon Personal Computer. Apple followed suit with their own version of touch screen telephony with the Newton touch sensitive PDA. Basically the first smartphones ever known.


2000's - Other Touch Screen Technologies

In the 2000's multiple companies started to really appreciate touch screen technology. Using E.A. Johnsons original capacitive touch screen technology, other touch technologies like Surface Acoustic Wave, Infra Red and Projected Capactive touch screens were invented. All carrying their own benefits and limitations.


All these technologies have had a great impact on the gadgets we use and take for granted daily. So thank you E.A. Johnson for bringing us touch screens.