Computer Touch-Screen Technology Flashback to 1983: HP-150 from Hewlett-Packard

Jumping a bit ahead on our History of Computers line of posts, I got so excited and just couldn’t wait to share this little gem I came across on  Youtube, from The Computer Chronicles show. Cyril Yansouni, General Manager of PC Group at Hewlett-Packard at the time, presented HP-150, featuring touch-screen technology, still an early concept for 1983 (some of you may have not even been born yet.)

The HP-150, a “compact, powerful and innovative” computer based on the Intel 8088 was made by Hewlett-Packard in 1983 . It was one of the world’s earliest commercialized touch screen computers. On the downside, the machine was not IBM PC compatible, however it was MS-DOS compatible. (Who worked with DOS? Raise your hand!) Customized MS-DOS versions 2.01, 2.11 and 3.20 were available at the time. Its 8088 CPU, rated at 8 MHz, was faster than the 4.77 MHz ones used by the IBM PC of that period. Using add-on cards, main memory could be increased from 256 KB (256 KiB) to 640 KB – a number that seem so miniscule today.  Because the computer was relatively small, its mainboard did not have a slot, nor room for the optional Intel 8087 math co-processor. The HP-150 with an optional hard disk was called the “Touchscreen MAX”.

The screen is a 9″ Sony CRT surrounded by infrared emitters and detectors which detect the position of any non-transparent object on the screen. In the original HP-150, every now and then the touch screen would fail. As it turned out, emitters & detectors were placed within small holes located in the inside of the monitor’s bezel, and in time those holes would fill up with dust and force the touch screen to fail. Maybe that’s why some geeks came up with computer vacuum and dust blowers? Learning about HP-150 sure makes me feel grateful to the engineers and scientists of the past who paved the way to the technology we enjoy and take for granted every day.

There is a tribute page to HP-150 in Wikipedia – if you are technically inclined an enjoy this type of information, dig in here.

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