Technobyte: Touchy-Feely Tech

By Lucas Holzhaeuer

I bought a slate-style tablet pc for school last summer in an attempt to keep organized notes after my note-taking mess of last year. Similar to Apple’s upcoming iPad, it has no keyboard or touchpad, but instead, users interact directly with the screen. Even though it was built in 2003, it has roughly the same specs as a modern day netbook, in welcome addition to the same price point being seven years old. To be entirely unambiguous, “Bella,” is a Motion Computing m1400, running Windows 7 after a minor RAM upgrade. She does not have touch input, but rather, the stylus’ position is detected while off screen, but only “clicks” upon the nib being pushed in, much like a real pen.

Taking notes without a keyboard on a computer is almost as fast as taking notes with a keyboard for me, neither matching my writing speed on paper. I think half my conundrum is simply figuring out what ink colour to use on the next section to indicate it is an example. However, my notes are also taken more demurely to preserve quality. That way, they are still readable upon review in a few months’ time. A frequent question in respect to my tablet

is about handwriting recognition. It’s kind of okay. I would love to say that I have horrible handwriting (which I do), and it’s way better now than ever (which is also true), but short of a miracle, pressing the “Handwriting to text” button will not magically make my page of handwritten notes into a clean sheet of text. Individual words and sentences may work, but throw some numbers into the mix and the computer gets a severe case of confusion.

Using one’s finger instead of a stylus does not necessarily simplify things. From experience, I can say for tablets, a stylus is generally the more effective of the two. This is largely due to the stylus’ very accurate point compared to a bulky fingertip. The convenience of simply using one’s finger is largely negated by having to click three times to select what you want. This is much more apparent on older

model laptops; newer models are more sophisticated in figuring out what you are trying to do. On smaller devices,

such as smart phones and PDAs, I can understand the preference of fingers. Carrying around a stylus for momentary use is awkward and the convenience of touch is just too compelling.

With Apple’s introduction of the solely touch-screen iPad, are tablets and touch screens on the edge of being part of our daily tech interactions? To be honest, I’m curious myself. They are definitely taking over the smart phone market, but I do not see them coming to the desktop market as a major phenomenon any time soon. As for laptops, touch sensitive screens are handy in themselves, but not nearly as handy as when combined with a keyboard for serious typing. Be prepared to see some interesting concepts as manufacturers try to combine the two in innovative ways to entice the public towards the burgeoning touch revolution.

Technobyte Tip: Cleaning Screens

Do not use Windex or other glass cleaners! Screens are generally plastic and this can destroy them. Clean touch screens and monitors by wiping with a soft cloth or microfiber. These can be found in any computer store; in a pinch, the ones used to clean glasses work just as well.

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