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Graphic Tablets

History of an IT Gadget

Wang Fangyi

on 23 April 2010

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Transcript of Graphic Tablets

History as it is drawn - Graphic Tablets The first electronic handwriting tablet was the Telautograph, patented by Elisha Gray in 1888. The telautograph, an analog precursor to the modern fax machine, transmits electrical impulses recorded by potentiometers at the sending station to stepping motors attached to a pen at the receiving station, thus reproducing at the receiving station a drawing or signature made by the sender. It was the first such device to transmit drawings to a stationary sheet of paper; previous inventions in Europe had used rotating drums to make such transmissions. The first graphics tablet resembling contemporary tablets and used for handwriting recognition by a computer was the Styalator in 1957. Better known (and often mis-stated as the first digitizer tablet) is the RAND Tablet also known as the Grafacon (for Graphic Converter), introduced in 1964. The RAND Tablet employed a grid of wires under the surface of the pad that encoded horizontal and vertical coordinates in a small magnetic signal. The stylus would receive the magnetic signal, which could then be decoded back as coordinate information.

Summagraphics also made an OEM version of its BitPad which was sold by Apple Computer as the Apple Graphics Tablet accessory to their Apple II. These tablets used a magnetostriction technology which used wires made of a special alloy stretched over a solid substrate to accurately locate the tip of a stylus or the center of a digitizer cursor on the surface of the tablet. This technology also allowed Proximity or "Z" axis measurement. Other graphics tablets a commonly known as spark or acoustic tablets, used a stylus that generated clicks with a spark plug. The clicks were then triangulated by a series of microphones to locate the pen in space. The system was fairly complex and expensive, and the sensors were susceptible to interference by external noise. Digitizers were popularized in the mid 1970s and early 1980s by the commercial success of the ID (Intelligent Digitizer) and BitPad manufactured by the Summagraphics Corp. These digitizers were used as the input device for many high-end CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems as well as bundled with PC's and PC based CAD software like AutoCAD. The first home computer graphics tablet was the KoalaPad. Though originally designed for the Apple II, the Koala eventually broadened its applicability to practically all home computers with graphics support, examples of which include the TRS-80 Color Computer, Commodore 64, and Atari 8-bit family. Competing tablets were eventually produced; the tablets produced by Atari were generally considered to be of high quality.
In 1981, musician Todd Rundgren created the first color graphics tablet software for personal computers, which was licensed to Apple as the Utopia Graphics Tablet System.
In the 1980s, several vendors of graphics tablets began to include additional functions, such as handwriting recognition and on-tablet menus.
Passive tablets, most notably those by Wacom, make use of electromagnetic induction technology, where the horizontal and vertical wires of the tablet operate as both transmitting and receiving coils (as opposed to the wires of the RAND Tablet which only transmit). The tablet generates an electromagnetic signal, which is received by the LC circuit in the stylus. The wires in the t. Modern arrangements also provide pressure sensitivity and one or more switches (similar to the buttons on a mouse), with the electronics for this information present in the stylus itself, not the tablet. On older tablets, changing the pressure on the stylus nib or pressing a switch changed the properties of the LC circuit, affecting the signal generated by the pen, which modern ones often encode into the signal as a digital data stream. By using electromagnetic signals, the tablet is able to sense the stylus position without the stylus having to even touch the surface, and powering the pen with this signal means that devices used with the tablet never need batteries. Wacom's patents don't permit their competitors to employ such techniques. Passive Tablets Active Tablets Active tablets differ in that the stylus used contains self-powered electronics that generate and transmit a signal to the tablet. These styli rely on an internal battery rather than the tablet for their power, resulting in a bulkier stylus. Eliminating the need to power the pen means that such tablets may listen for pen signals constantly, as they do not have to alternate between transmit and receive modes, which can result in less jitter. Optical Tablets Optical tablets operate by a very small digital camera in the stylus, and then doing pattern matching on the image of the paper. The most successful example is the technology developed by Anoto. Acoustic Tablets Early models were described as spark tablets—a small sound generator was mounted in the stylus, and the acoustic signal picked up by two microphones placed near the writing surface. Some modern designs are able to read positions in three dimensions. Electromagnetic Tablets
Wacom's are one example of a graphics tablet that works by generating and detecting an electromagnetic signal: in the Wacom design, the signal is generated by the pen, and detected by a grid of wires in the tablet. Other designs such as those by Pencept generate a signal in the grid of wires in the tablet, and detect it in the pen. Capacitive Tablets These tablets have also been designed to use an electrostatic or capacitive signal. Scriptel's designs are one example of a high-performance tablet detecting an electrostatic signal. Unlike the type of capacitive design used for touchscreens, the Scriptel design is able to detect the position of the pen while it is in proximity to, or hovering above, the tablet. Many multi-touch tablets use capacitive sensing.
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