touch with the future
Touchscreen puts Star Trek technology with in your reach
John “jaQ” Andrews
All the cool people
have them. Science museums. Friendly’s waitresses. Tom Cruise in
They give you direct
control over your computer, with no mucking about with mice or keyboard
commands. You can regress back to kindergarten — just point, and bink,
your wish is granted.
This setup is
especially useful if you have more than one monitor. Your second monitor
can be outfitted with a touchscreen to make it simple to control music
or other media applications.
As with anything,
though, the big limiting factor in being cool yourself is cash. While a
normal 17-inch computer monitor might set you back one or two hundred
dollars, a touchscreen can easily be five times more.
There is a cheaper way.
Magic Touch (www.magictouch.com)
and EarthLCD (www.earthlcd.com) make touchscreen monitors, but they also
make add-on kits for turning any monitor into a sweet, sweet touchscreen.
All it takes is a transparent overlay on the screen, a USB or serial
connection and some software. And it’s about $200, if you buy them new.
Installing the kit is a
pretty simple process. Different models are made for different size
screens; some even fit laptop screens, so you can open the lid on your
laptop and slip the unit on. For a more permanent installation on a
desktop monitor, both velcro and clip-style hangers are included. The
hangers are the only things permanently attached to the monitor, so you
can remove and replace the touch-sensitive overlay whenever you want.
Plug the attached cable
into your USB or serial port and install the software. You’ll then have
to touch a few places on the screen to calibrate the overlay. After that
you’re ready to computer with one finger.
The touchscreen overlay
works like many regular touchscreens, using what’s called resistive
technology. You never actually touch your computer screen, but instead
touch a membrane suspended a fraction of an inch above a clear panel.
That panel has an electrically resistive coating, and when your finger
presses the membrane onto the panel, the overlay registers an electrical
contact at that point. The software driver then translates that into a
Technically, you don’t
even have to have the overlay on your monitor. It doesn’t care about the
picture on the screen, only about the coordinates you touch. If you put
the overlay flat on your desk and touch its center, it’ll still register
a mouse click in the center of your monitor.