Lonely Computer Begs Uninterested Public to "Touch Me" in 1983

I had no idea that there was a personal computer with a touchscreen on the market twenty-five years ago, but indeed there was: the HP-150 from Hewlett Packard (also the first computer to use the rigid 3.5” diskette). While not a "true" touchscreen (it uses infra-red transmitters and receivers), it's still jarring to see a feature that seems so modern set in a tiny black screen with glowing green type (those I remember). Alas, like many things ahead of their time, the HP-150 was not a big seller. P.S. If, like me, you think the caterpillar-into-butterfly metaphor is rather twee, take heart: According to John Barry’s Technobabble (1993), HP allegedly spent $30,000 trying to get the butterfly to land in the perfect spot on the computer screen in another ad from this campaign. Oh, the travails of advertising in a pre-CGI era.

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I actually used some of these. When I started my teaching career in the long-ago world of 1990, there was a guy on staff who knew a guy who was wanting to get rid of a whole bunch of failed HP computers and donated them to us. We spent hours and hours setting the things up. They were awful. The touchscreen was cool, but it was so tiny and low-res that you couldn't do anything useful with it. A few months later, the school board announced new funding for computer labs and we got DOS boxes with WordPerfect (maybe around 4.2, but might have been 5.1) loaded. The HPs probably ended up in landfill. They weren't compatible with much and gave the kids eyestrain, but I do remember thinking in 1990 that their 1983 touchscreen was giving us a look at the near future. If only it could be perfected.