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Thursday, March 15, 2012


When’s the last time you pressed a button?
You probably press buttons all day, but do you ever get the feeling that you’re pressing less of them? That’s because you probably are. Touch screens have moved to the forefront of the consumer tech landscape, but what is it about this technology that has allowed it to slowly permeate our lives? For example, I’m in the market for a Kindle, and though the plain $79 version is cheaper, the Kindle Touch mesmerizes me. Why? Swiping is just another way to navigate and only slightly faster. More to the point, why does the Kindle Touch even exist?

Perhaps touch has always been a sign of the future. Remember when Palm Pilots were cutting edge? How about when Sony had those touchscreen cameras? Touch seems to fulfill a fantasy vision of an imagined future that was cultivated from science fiction and dangles before us like a carrot.

Despite two Iraq wars, the dawning of a new millennium, 9/11 and the election of the first African American president, it doesn’t seem that long ago when technology was more science fiction than reality. Weren’t we all just using joysticks and buttons to play Pac-Man and Centipede on behemoth machines down at the local arcade, frantically inserting an allowance worth of quarters in search of new high scores? Didn’t the geometric graphics more closely resemble Cold War hammer and sickle shapes than the complex alternative universe available today in games like Skyrim? Whether it is a video game or a rock song, it’s commonly believed that 20 years needs to pass before something can be considered a classic. But time works in strange and labyrinthine ways. In the years it took the old games and gaming systems to go the way of the dinosaur, new inventions, razor-thin gadgets, social media platforms and touch screen technologies have exploded onto the scene, forever changing our modes of communication, business and information assessment. The modern world has finally caught up to it science fiction dreams.
Touch screens are the frontline in our forward march into a brave new world. What started out with ATM machines and supermarket scanners and pay-screens has morphed into a commonplace, technological standard. Technology that wasn’t designed with touch technology (see: phones, ereaders, portable gaming systems, tablets, etc.) have been switched over. The Hours of Servicelogs outfitted in truckers’ 18-wheelers used to be paper logs and have evolved into high-tech GPS fuel managers navigated by, you guessed it, touch screen. The touch generation has found its way into all facets of modern society. Touch screens are too ubiquitous and solidly integrated into the world to be considered a fad. Touch is not a novelty act like Microsoft’s newest 3-D virtual platform, HoloDesk. Like it or not, touch screens are here to stay. 
Change is difficult, and people get set in their ways. While it is easy to wax romantic and refer to these latest technological devices as extensions of our bodies, in the end they are just tools for interacting with our environments and will eventually give way to the next technological advances.

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