What Touchscreens Were Like in 1982

In 1982, the much-loved and sadly now defunct BBC TV show Tomorrow's World took a look at "one ordinary finger and one rather extraordinary TV screen." The result are touching, in more than one sense of the word.


Marvel, as this chap's finger renders ASCII text onscreen before your very eyes (QPR, for what it's worth, are the initials of an English football club). In fact, as is explained in the video, this was one of the first IR touchscreens, which measured where your finger was using beams of light rather the resistance or capacitance within the screen. Remember them? Things get even weirder when he gets to possible applications, though—but I won't ruin that surprise (spoiler: it's not an iPhone). [BritLab]


I actually worked with a similar IR touchscreen during the 80s. - 1983 I think. It was actually a screen overlay panel that could be mounted over a certain brand of CRT monitor. It had IR emitters & receivers along the edge of the screen that detected touch. You could get the touch to register without actually touching the screen - just get very close. A fly in the R&D lab caused a lot of laughs too. We were evaluating it for possible incorporation into an industrial machine control. It was decided that it was just too geek for machinery operators. And, was just too unreliable ( remember the fly?) to put on a factory floor