Chapter 8. Hands On: Tablet and Gestural Computing

Mobile and hand-operated computer-technology-based tools are an area that has been the subject of research and development for many years. It is now flourishing, most visibly with its use in products like the Apple iPhone. This way of having a person control computing power is much more intimate than the older deskbound and keyboard-controlled computers of the 1980s and 1990s.

I begin with an essay I wrote when the first of a new crop of what Microsoft called "Tablet PCs" were released in late 2002. Such machines are basically laptop computers with screens that are sensitive to being touched with a special pen. In some cases, these are called "convertibles," and the screens can be rotated or folded to alternate between covering and exposing a normal keyboard. In other cases, the keyboard is an optional-separate plug-in component, and the computer is just a slab with a screen on one side.

At the end of this chapter, I'll also look at the area of usability through a case study of a well-known non-computer-screen stylus system.


Back in the early 1990s, I was heavily involved in the pen computing world. I cofounded Slate Corporation which developed application software for GO's Penpoint operating system, as well as Microsoft's Windows for Pen Computing and for the Apple Newton. I was exposed to software and hardware development, both at the operating system and application level, and had experience using ...

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