Touch screens existed in science fiction long before they entered the real-world. Star-Trek: The Next Generation made extensive use of what today are modern touch screens decades before they became common.

Johnson described the touch screen in a seminal paper. Johnson himself never actually created nor patented a touch-screen. Sam Hurst at the U. of KY developed a touch screen sensor in 1971 though it was not see-through until 1974.

The first real touch-screen, with a screen visible behind the touch, was used on Bitzer’s PLATO system, deployed in 1972. PLATO used infrared beams and detected when they were broken rather than more modern systems that detect a screen touch.

In 1983, HP released the HP-150, the first touchscreen computer. BellSouth released the first touchscreen phone, the Simon Personal Communicator, in 1993. By the mid 2000s touchscreens were becoming more mainstream. Finally, with the introduction of Appleā€™s iPhone in 2007, touchscreens started on the path towards commonplace tech.

Hurst, the early touchscreen pioneer, went on to found a successful touchscreen company, Elographics (now Elo Touch).