Technology News, Tips and Tricks

How Does a Touchscreen Work?

A touchscreen is a display that you can interact with by just touching it. There are touchscreens all over the place, including our smartphones, computers, televisions, and even refrigerators. 

But how does a touchscreen work?

Even if it seems like it, they don’t run on magic. Since touchscreens are so prevalent in our daily experience, understanding the basic information behind their functionality is a good idea.

Here’s a quick rundown on how touchscreens operate and why you may want to choose touchscreens over standard ones. 


How Does a Touchscreen Work?

The first touchscreen was created in the 1960s, which was almost 60 years ago. Back then, touchscreens were not even close to where they are now.

Today, there are two different varieties of touchscreens: capacitive and resistive. To understand how a touchscreen works, you must first understand the difference between them.

Resistive Touchscreen 

A resistive touchscreen requires a stylus or electronic pen for you to interact with it.

You can press down with force using your finger, but you won’t be able to brush your finger across the screen with any type of effect. Think of the electronic screens you sign at the store as an example of this.

Resistive touchscreens have an electrical conductive layer beneath the screen. When you touch it with a hard press or a stylus, the two layers touch and register the movement.

The display may bend a little bit as you touch it. If you can feel that slight give, you know it’s a resistive touchscreen. 

In older displays especially, you may have to push down harder than normal for it to register that you have touched it. 

Because the touch has to be so precise and hard on the screen, these devices are more durable and can even be water resistant.

It’s also true that the devices with these touchscreens are cheaper than their capacitive counterparts and are more widely accepted.

Capacitive Touchscreen

A capacitive touchscreen is meant to be used with your finger and is very receptive to touch. This would include your smartphone, tablet, and touchscreen computers. Most of the personal electronic devices you find will use this type of touchscreen.

These are starting to become much more common, but they aren’t ubiquitous yet. They are more expensive to make, which makes the products that use them more expensive as well.

Capacitive touchscreens don’t use the pressure you put on them as a way to register the touch. Instead, they will register touch whenever something that has an electrical current of its own touches them (which includes your hands).

These displays have a lot of tiny wires that are smaller than a strand of your hair. When your hands touch it, it completes the electrical circuit and registers that you are interacting with the screen.

If you’ve ever wondered when the screen won’t do anything when you have regular gloves on, this is why. The screen won’t work because the fabric blocks you from completing the circuit using your human electrical current.

Why Are Touchscreens So Prevalent?

Using the same space for different purposes means that devices can have larger displays.

For instance, you can have a bigger screen if you don’t have half of the device space taken up by a keyboard. Instead, the screen is the keyboard—but only when you need it to be.

Think about what the original Blackberry smartphones were like. They needed the traditional keyboard, so they were not able to have large screens. If you look at smartphones now, the displays are twice the size (or larger) due to the lack of keyboards.

Another reason that people like touchscreens is because they are actually more durable. Pushing the buttons on traditional keyboards wears them out faster than we’d like. They may get stuck, fall off, or just stop working altogether. 

A touchscreen, on the other hand, will last for millions of touches. The device itself may not be as durable as the older models, but with the right care, the touchscreen will last for a lot longer than an old keyboard.

Lastly, it’s very easy to clean a touchscreen compared to physical buttons. You just have to wipe it down with a cloth. Cleaning a keyboard is much more involved and can cause accidental breakage if you’re too rough.

What’s Next for Touchscreens?

Touchscreens are used for many things in our lives, but they also are used to test cognition in animals. The Amuza operant chamber, for example, has a touch panel that is perfect for the sensitivity rodents need to generate data.

Being able to use this technology in scientific studies to collect data that may influence our world is very important.

Another focus of touchscreens is the mobile experience. Researchers are developing devices that can be worn on the wrist and have a motion sensor to detect movement. This will allow humans to control screens without even directly touching them.

As touchscreen technology continues to change, we will see new developments that help us as a society. Having access to these new technology options helps researchers learn things they wouldn’t have been able to previously. 

The Power of New Technology

Touchscreens are a relatively new technology and as we continue to make advancements, they are likely to become more and more prevalent over time.

Now that you can answer the question “how does a touchscreen work?”, you may want to learn more about other advancements in technology.

If you’d like to find out more about the tech you use every day, check out some of the posts on our website! You may learn something you didn’t know before.

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