Previewing Microsoft Surface

Touch-screen interaction: It works well on a Nintendo DS Lite or an iPhone, but has been slow to move into larger settings. Movies such as “The Matrix,” “Minority Report” and “The Island” depict characters conducting computing tasks on massive screens on which everything’s moveable at the touch of a fingertip. In real life, meanwhile, computing via large, touch-screen interaction has yet to move beyond ATMs and kiosks at airports and in retail settings.

Touch-screen interaction has been in development since 1984 at least. In an overview of the history of multi-touch systems posted on his Web site, Bill Buxton of Microsoft Research stated: “The original work undertaken by my team was done in 1984, the same year that the first Macintosh computer was released, and we were not the first.”

He goes on to make an interesting point on the speed with which interactive computer hardware becomes widely used. “Remember that it took 30 years between when the mouse was invented in 1965 to when it became ubiquitous, on the release of Windows 95.”

Many might disagree with Buxton’s identification of the point when the mouse became ubiquitous, tracing it instead, perhaps, to the debut in 1987 of the IBM Personal System/2, which introduced a keyboard and mouse interface that other manufacturers rapidly adopted. But the point is that mice had to advance to a point in which feasible cost made consumer acceptance possible, and touch-screen technology is moving along a similar arc.

The most high-profile example of computing…


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