Not all touchscreen devices are powered by capacitive touch-sensing technology. Some use resistive technology to detect a user’s touch commands. Even if you’re familiar with the general function of resistive touchscreens, though, you probably don’t know the history behind them. In this post, we’re going to explore the history of resistive touchscreens.

Origins of the Modern Resistive Touchscreen

According to Wikipedia, the world’s first resistive touchscreen was invented in the mid-1970s by American engineer Samuel Hurst. While capacitive touchscreens has been around for several years prior, Hurt’s touchscreen was the first device featuring resistive touch-sensing technology. It’s believed that Hurst, along with a group of friends, found that touching and tapping a computer monitor was a better way to control a computer than using a traditional keyboard and mouse. Hurst then proceeded to develop a touchscreen interface featuring multiple layers of resistive material.

Since then, countless companies have developed their own resistive touchscreens. In 2007, over nine in 10 of all touchscreen devices shipped globally were resistive. While capacitive touchscreens are now more popular than their resistive counterparts, many consumers and business owners still prefer resistive touchscreens.

Some of the most noteworthy benefits associated with resistive touchscreen devices include the following:

  • More durable than capacitive touchscreen devices
  • Less likely to register touch commands from accidental touches or taps
  • Able to register touch commands from a bare finger as well as any stylus or object
  • Highly resistant to dirt, debris, moisture or other environmental pollutants
  • Costs less than capacitive touchscreen devices
  • Ideal for commercial usage
  • Long-lasting, making them a smart investment for consumers and business owners
  • Highly accurate at detecting when and where touch commands occur

How Resistive Touchscreens Work

Now that you know the origins of modern resistive touchscreens, you might be wondering how exactly they work. There are different ways to design a resistive touchscreen, but most of them follow a similar construction. Resistive touchscreens feature a top layer — typically made of polyester or plastic — and a bottom layer — typically made of glass. On the sides of these layers that face each other is a conductive coating of indium tin oxide (ITO). Additionally, the two layers are separated by air or inert gas.

When you tap or touch the display surface, you’ll press the top layer into the bottom layer. Because these layers feature a conductive coating, this action completes a circuit, thereby allowing the device to detect the location of your touch command.