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Ask HN: Do you want to touch the screen?
4 points by schtog on June 1, 2008 | hide | past | favorite | 19 comments
So touchscreens though an old concept are becoming very popular and I can see the big gain for cellphones since controls generally are awkward.

But for normal computers, what is the real gain? I already have to wipe my screen too often, I don't want to wipe more often. I don't want to be negative to new technology(you usually end up looking like a fool) but I have never really felt like "Damn if I could just click the screen instead!", or maybe I am so used to using the mouse that I dont even consider that clicking would be very nice. Another thing is precision, don't we still need the mouse for a lot of tasks? A finger is quite blunt and clicking a small file might be hard. Maybe the whole interface would be changed though.

(Btw is there a saying for not judging things in their wrong environment? Like "don't judge a book by its cover" but in the form of "don't judge a F1-racing machine on a normal road" or something like that.)




A touchscreen doesn't replace a mouse - as you've noted it's not precise enough. It can work with a UI that's designed for it specifically. But you give up a lot of screen real estate to make that work. (I've spent the last 3 years working on a touch-screen kiosk app...)

What's really interesting is the multitouch stuff, especially with very large displays. Once large, very high resolution displays become affordable, I think multitouch will take off in a big way.


The key phrase being "UI that's designed for it specifically".

Personally I think Apple did the right thing with the iPhone. I'm a lot more enthused about using the touchscreen on that vs. sticking to only the stylus on every single other mobile device with a touchscreen I have owned. I'd almost feel that a stylus would ruin the point of the iPhone, unless you needed precision accuracy, and it's been a year (just a bit short of that jailbroken) that I've had the iPhone and I still can't think of anything in particular that would need it.


I'd like to have a screen that gives an electric shock to anyone who gets their greasy, grubby fingers near it.


I know I'd like to touch a screen when prototyping stuff, or for fast-paced creative sessions (i.e: brainstorming and such)

On the other hand, I'm also a keyboard junkie, so you can happily ignore my point of view :)


True. Actually now when I think about it there are a lot of obvious applications for it. Paint and photoshoplike programs for example.

But getting rid of the mouse altogether? Hmm maybe.


I've never used one, but every review of the Cintiq I've ever read is roughly "Best device ever! Should have bought it years ago! Worth every penny! From my cold dead hands!". This suggests to me that for at least a significant minority of use cases, more direct manipulation is quite useful.

You admit it's good for phones but bad for "normal computers". But your phone is more powerful than your PC was 10 years ago. Lots of people have already given up desktops for laptops; is it so hard to imagine one day many people will have given up laptops for even smaller devices?

I think it would be great for collaboration. Two people and one screen is OK, but you either have collaboration software (complex) or have to share input devices (awkward). A touchscreen bring back the immediacy of sketching something out on a whiteboard together.

As you point out, the interface will need to change. (When I was typing commands into my terminal, I never thought "Damn if only I could drag a bar of soap around my desk to do this!") The mouse is a local maximum. But it's a chicken-and-egg problem: you can't write software for hardware that nobody has. So if people want to build touchscreens, I'm all for it. Maybe somebody will build an interface for them that doesn't suck.


I'd love to touch my screen! I'd also like my keyboard, mouse and monitors to be touch sensitive screens (same form factor but made with a 'screen' layered over them. So my mouse/keyboard can be completely customizable to the task at hand.

Now if they can get the screen surface to change texture AS WELL as the light that it emits it would be amazing. Rough and smooth surfaces for buttons etc.

Touch screens don't need to just be classic 'screens'.



yeah that's a good start... but the keys need to be virtual so they can move around.


Touchscreens are great for applications that don't require a keyboard. Non-technical people like touching screens. It usually means a simple UI and a small feature set.


I like touching screens! It feels a lot more relaxed and natural to manipulate certain things by touch vs. using a keyboard or some other input device. It's almost like mouse gestures except so much better.

That's not to say the keyboard doesn't have its uses, and that it's my favorite input device in general though. Although I do love my logitech mx revolution mouse too...


Being an iPhone user I often find myself out of habit sliding my finger up my screen to scroll down when browsing the web. I promptly bang my head on the desk and feel like an idiot when nothing happens and there is now another finger smudge line on the screen.

I'm in favor of this new interaction so long as I get to keep my keyboard!


I'd rather not touch my screen but I do want multitouch controlling of onscreen objects, e.g. in games or graphics apps, or for sorting through photos, organising research snippets/post it notes (digital ones of course), moving icons around, etc.

My proposed solution is this: a flat digital touch-sensitive keyboard (I know, some people like tactile feedback!) that can switch to a touch 'screen' mode with the flick of a switch - and though contact is required to manipulate objects, it senses hand positions without contact so that cursors are displayed onscreen where each fingertip is about to contact (so you can hover + seek, then click/drag)

--------- alternative idea: multitouch phones used as bluetooth (multi)touchpads for your PC


All four of the displays for the computers I use often have fingerprints all over them. Also I occasionally have a finger that feels sore from overestimating the distance from my lap with the keyboard to the display.

Stupid iPhone with its multitouch touchscreen display.


One thing that I hate most is having to switch between interface methods and devices. If I can't do everything I need to do quickly, intuitively, and accurately with a touchscreen, then I don't want one. I don't want it for the 10% of the time that it might be useful if I still need a keyboard for the other 90% of the time.

That's not to say that I don't think that it COULD be useful at some point. If I had a computer that only had touchscreen and had excellent voice recognition capabilities, that would be a workable solution for the right application.


"You make a better door than a window"

seriously, though: "on their own grounds / in context". But you're right, no pithy phrase comes to mind.

OT: I was looking for stuff like this: "Linux: can't blend margaritas", which is kind of the idea.

and I found this fun Google query: http://www.google.com/search?q=%22worst+*+in+*%22


Has anyone combined the ideas behind the theremin with the touch screen? - This way you wouldn't have to ever touch the screen and there would be an extra degree of freedom in the distance from the screen.


Nokia is already working in this direction. Google "nokia touchless" to see some prototypes.

Can't wait to see the day you can wave your hands in front of the screen saying "these are not the bugs you're looking for" :D


some touch screens work somewhat like that already, such as the lenovo ones.




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