A touch screen is a display device that allows the user to interact with a computer by using their finger or stylus. They can be quite useful as an alternative to a mouse or keyboard for navigating a GUI (graphical user interface). Touch screens are used on a variety of devices such as computer and laptop displays, smartphones, tablets, cash registers, and information kiosks. Some touch screens use a grid of infrared beams to sense the presence of a finger instead of utilizing touch-sensitive input.
Touch screen history
The idea of a touch screen was first described and published by E.A. Johnson in 1965. In the early 1970s, the first touch screen was developed by Frank Beck and Bent Stumpe, engineers at CERN. The physical product was first created and utilized in 1973. The first resistive touch screen was developed by George Samuel Hurst in 1975 but wasn't produced and used until 1982.
How do you use the touch screen?
Note: Not all touch screens have the same functions, but the actions below are the most common.
Double-tap - A double-tap can have different functions depending on where it is utilized. For example, in a browser, double-tapping the screen zooms the view, centered at the tap location. Double-tapping in a text editor can be used to select a word or section of words.
Touch and hold - Pressing and holding your finger to a touch screen selects or highlight an object. For example, you could touch and hold an icon, and then drag it somewhere else on the screen. See our long press page for further information on this term.
Drag - If you press and hold your finger on an object (such as an app shortcut) on the screen, you can move your finger to "pull" the object to a different location. The same action, used with text, allows you to highlight text. Lift your finger when you are done moving or highlighting.
Swipe - Swiping your finger across the screen can be used to scroll in a certain direction or change pages. For example, pressing your finger at the bottom of the screen and quickly moving it up (swiping) scrolls the screen down. See our swipe page for further information and related links.
Pinch - Placing two fingers on the screen in different spots and then pinching them together zooms out. Pinching your fingers together and then moving them away from each other, zooms in on the screen. See our pinch-to-zoom page for further information on this term.
Why is a touch screen an input device?
Any computer device (including a touch screen) that takes input from the person operating the device is considered an input device. When you touch your finger on a touch screen to interact with an icon, text, or another object that is considered input because you're telling the computer what you'd like for it to do. Your finger is the same as using a computer mouse on a desktop computer, which is also another type of input device.
How is a touch screen different than a mouse?
One of the biggest differences between a mouse and touch screen is the ability to hover. Almost all touch screens can only detect input when your finger is in direct contact with the screen. However, a computer mouse uses a cursor that allows the user to hover over any object without interacting with that object. For example, this link to Computer Hope shows the text "Visit the Computer Hope Page" when hovered over using a computer mouse. However, a user with a touch screen cannot see this text because if they place their finger on the link, it will open the link.
Is it touch screen, touchscreen, or touch-screen?
In all forms of writing, when used as a noun touch screen should be written as two words. If the word is being used as an adjective, hyphenate the word. Never use "touchscreen" as one word unless you're writing instructions where "touchscreen" is used.
Tip: The Associated Press Stylebook, Oxford Dictionary of Computing, and Microsoft Computer Dictionary recommend and use touch screen as two words.