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Re: touch-scren interface - was quest for an audio interface forlaptop music applications

David Kirkdorffer wrote:
> But getting touch screen computer applications would be better.   I 
> when the dual-core 64-bit machines will be the platform on which we see
> these developments start to become mainstream.

Touch screens in various forms have been around for over thirty years,
one of the earliest relatively mainstream touch screen was the plasma
panel of the Plato educational terminal in the mid seventies.  It
doesn't take a lot of computer power to interface with a touch panel,
so 64-bit dual core machines aren't going to affect their adoption.
I expect them to become more popular in the future, but more because
of changing tastes and application support, not CPU power.

There are two related reasons touch panels haven't become mainstream:

1) they are expensive compared to keyboard/mouse technology
2) they are not as ergonomic for most users compared to a keyboard/mouse

Think about how you use a computer today.  You are sitting with your
forearms resting on a surface with your hands draped over a keyboard
and mouse, there is a monitor at around shoulder level.  Now imagine
you have no mouse and instead your monitor is a touch panel.  To do
any of the things you currently do with a mouse, you have to raise
your arm into the air and hold it there.  Unless you exercise more
than I do, this gets tiring very quickly.  A finger is also a lot less
accurate than a mouse cursor.  "Light pens" which have been around for
decades can help the accuracy problem, but they don't solve the
fatigue problem.

So, how about a mouse alternative that is a touch panel that lays flat
on your desk.  Things like this have been around for many years, but
they are expensive compared to the $5 a simple mouse costs and they
take up more space on your desk.  You can pick up a mouse and make it
work just about anywhere you have a few square inches of space, but an
8x10 inch panel always requires that much space.

The next thing that sounds cool is to eliminate the keyboard and
instead have a rectangular panel upon which we can project different
"buttons".  We could project something that looks like a traditional
keyboard but you're tapping on the glass instead of pressing
mechanical keys, just like they do in Star Trek.  The problem is that
most people need the tactile feedback they get from a keyboard
in order to type accurately.  Think about not having those little
concave key surfaces to help guide your fingers.  Trust me, it
is very hard to type quickly and accurately without them.

It is quite possible we could adapt to life without mechanical keys,
but such evolutionary shifts take a long time and have nothing to do
with technology.  We would all be better off using Dvorak keyboards or
at least those funky split keyboards but very few people do.

Until enough people are comfortable with a touch panel as a keyboard
replacement, the cost won't come down.  Until the cost comes down, few
people will even attempt to become comfortable with them.  Another
chicken and egg problem.

Touch panels certainly have many uses, and I absolutely lust after
the Lemur.  But until the cost comes down due to some "killer app"
that makes everybody want one, they are not going to be mainstream for
a very long time.