Gadget Watch: Pen makes old monitors touch-ready

Jan 08, 2013 by Ryan Nakashima
E Fun's Apen Touch8 pen is shown at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013. Many people who have tried Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system without a touch screen have hated it because of the inability to use touch and swipe commands to get things going. Now a company has made a digital pen to allow people to use Windows 8 on their old monitors for less than the cost of buying a new touch-enabled computer. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Many people who have tried Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system without a touch screen have hated it because of the inability to use touch and swipe commands to get things going. Now, a company has made a digital pen to allow people to use Windows 8 on their old monitors for less than the cost of buying a new touch-enabled computer.

The device was unveiled this week at the International CES, an annual showcase in Las Vegas for the latest smartphones, and other consumer-.

WHAT IT IS: E Fun, a West Covina, California-based company, has come out with the Apen Touch8, a cordless pen that works in tandem with an attachment that plugs into the 's USB port.

HOW IT WORKS: The attachment, which is really an infrared and ultrasonic receiver, clips magnetically to the side of the screen, which can be as large as 17 inches (43 centimeters) diagonally. The pen emits an infrared beam out of its tip. The receiver attachment sends the pen's signals to the computer, which interprets its precise location.

Pushing down on the pen results in a separate ultrasonic signal, which is equivalent to a touch screen sensing when you are touching it. Just like that, you can swipe and tap your way through Windows 8. The pen runs on a watch battery, which should last about 500 hours and is replaceable.

WHY IT'S HOT: Windows 8, .'s effort to make desktop and laptop computers work more like tablet computers, was released in October to mixed reviews. A major problem is the fact that many of the features require a touch-screen monitor to work, making the experience unpleasant for those with older machines. Apen Touch8 offers a way for those with older computers to experience the newer touch-based functions.

AVAILABILITY: The pen is to go on sale in North America by the end of March for $80.

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User comments : 10

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_0_1_2_3
5 / 5 (1) Jan 08, 2013
This reminds of the "light pens" by FTG Data Systems in the early 1990s. Those pens had a camera in the tip and either a microchannel or ISA card in the computer that monitored output from the computer's video card so that it could be compared to the input from the camera. Can't remember if PCI cards were an option.
MandoZink
not rated yet Jan 08, 2013
"Microsoft Corp.'s effort to make desktop and laptop computers work more like tablet computers"
Why in hell would I want to do that?
VendicarD
not rated yet Jan 09, 2013
As predicted. Windows 8 is turning into a disaster for Microsoft.

Ball Boy Ballmer has once again proven himself to be completely incompetent.
gmurphy
1 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2013
What does the pen do that a mouse can't?
PPihkala
5 / 5 (1) Jan 09, 2013
Light pens were single point photo detectors that were used with CRT to detect the beam position as it moved across the screen and under the pen. Basically there were horizontal and vertical counters inside video card those contents were latched when the pen detected the bright beam passing. Very simple concept, but it could only detect bright, not black or dim objects. Some games also used a variation, light gun, that worked from longer range than light pen.
PPihkala
not rated yet Jan 09, 2013
What does the pen do that a mouse can't?

Some propably would claim that it is more intuitively to point the objects at the screen with pen than it is to use mouse to move the cursor, which is used currently.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jan 09, 2013
What does the pen do that a mouse can't?

Touch? Which is rather helpful if you have a workplace where you don't have space for a mouse (or you just want to get rid of your desk)

WHY IT'S HOT:...

Why it's not hot: Considering the following statement from the article:
"...clips magnetically to the side of the screen, which can be as large as 17 inches"

17 inch screen? I know no one who still uses something that small.

Some games also used a variation, light gun, that worked from longer range than light pen.

The lightgun (at least the 'duckhunt' version) worked by inserting a black frame when the trigger was pressed with white rectangles where valid targets were (flickering in succession for multiple targets). The photodetector on the gun gave you a signal depending whether it was pointed at a dark part or a white patch.

Clever, but the flicker makes this unusable for anything but few targets
VendicarD
not rated yet Jan 09, 2013
Wrong.

"The lightgun" - Antialias

The process of rasterization of a video display memory be read and then output as a sequence of stacked horizontal lines on a video display. With each horizontal line appears below the first.

Each horizontal line is composed of a sequence of dots placed side by side and for TV's and most pixelated monitors appearing righ of the previous pixel.

In order to produce such a display, typically custom video chips are employed.

Early video chips of this type were designed to support TV's and as computer memory was displayed, the video chip maintained a counter that counted each pixel displayed from left to right, and each scan line from top to bottom (there were actually two interleved fields).

Light pans and light guns located a target position on a display by looking for a brightness change in the display phosphor as the electron gun in the display tube drew the image. Once this trigger was identified, the location the pointing device was cont..
VendicarD
not rated yet Jan 09, 2013
cont. pointing to could easily be recovered by simply looking at the line count and pixel count maintained by the CRT controller IC.

Using this method gave good localization and zero flicker.

Very, very early displays used other locating techniques. This was especially needed for vector plotting terminals that did not rasterize their display.
VendicarD
not rated yet Jan 09, 2013
Nothing.

"What does the pen do that a mouse can't?" - qmurphy

It is inferior to a mouse in almost every way.