I just wanted to finish a draft blog post using my tablet, since after all, it’s a full blown computer. It has more than enough horsepower to run virtually any writing application. But right after I began to type in letter by letter, I realized that touch screens make you lazy. So lazy, that the blog post would have become much shorter than I wanted it to be. Additionally it would have included strange auto-completion artifacts and misplaced punctuation not resembling my usual writing style. Let’s explore the brave new world of touch screen computing, why touch screens suck and how they make us to internet zombies.
Touch screens actually just have reached their highest point in perceived innovation as they will ever will, at least for the mass market. As Bill Buxton pointed out, it takes about 30 years for any innovation to reach the mass market, so basically, every super new gadget you own is an old hat. At least from the perspective of the inventors. The original invention of the touch screen in fact is almost 50 years old and has not gained any additional features over that period of time! With the advent of cheap touch enabled consumer electronics devices it seemed to be brand new; And it is with no doubt one of the greatest ways to interact with the computer to date. But still, for some tasks, it just sucks and I will tell you why.
All you do is poking
Using a touchscreen, you can only point at things, even though your hands are capable of performing the oddest tasks with ease (like grabbing a bottle and unscrewing the caps with the same hand). Furthermore, you can not really point at things, you have to slightly poke them on the screen. So essentially the hand is reduced to 2 dimensions, even though we use at least 3 dimensions in our every day live. At least 3? Even though you might be of different opinion, I am counting hand gestures as another dimension as well; They are made up of different hand positions over time. Those gestures can also contain additional social conventions, which could count as yet another dimension.
Most people have more than one hand
There are few exceptions; Most of the time you will poke only with one hand. The other hand is occupied holding the tablet anyway. Or you are using one hand, because you have a hard time using the second hand without occluding the on-screen keyboard. The biggest problem in that case is, that we need tactile feedback for our hands to train our muscle-memory. And even if you somehow manage to use both your hands, then you’re most probably only using one finger per hand!
So basically, that shows us, that touch screen devices are designed for one-armed and one-fingered people with a lot of patience.
Death by poking
But wait, there’s another way! Nobody forces me to write a long essay about the “merits of coala bears in the rain forest” or whatever. I’ll just twitter! Or even better, I’ll write my blog post once I get back home to my desktop computer.
And there you go, after essentially 100 years of using a typewriter, we’ve found an interface so simple, that allows us to not write anymore at all. The interface of touch devices reward passive consumers and lead to shorter responses, less detailed descriptions and throw-away conversations.
So the internet slowly rots, since nobody is writing anything anymore. And by now almost half of it’s population is already infected with the touch-screen-virus.
Luckily there is a remedy; we can simply add a keyboard to a tablet! I’ll call it dynabook!
Half of this post was written using the ZTE Starnaute, maybe the worst mobile on earth; Well, at least it was designed for people with two thumbs.