Some people are really itching for a touchscreen Mac, presumably finding the precision and convenience of a mouse or touchpad just too convenient. And while Apple has to date refused to give the people what they think they want, it turns out you can buy a touchscreen Mac in 2023. It just happens to be 24 years old.
Back in 1999, a company called Elo built and sold touchscreen editions of the iMac G3 via Apple’s Value Added Reseller program. This wasn’t for home use, but for business to use as “ready-to-go tabletop kiosks”, and the YouTuber Michael MJD has managed to get his hands on one to put through its paces.
Giving a touchscreen to a non-touch sensitive screen is no mean feat, and the way Elo implemented it is really quite impressive. The company implemented their “iTouch Touch-on-Tube technology” which uses surface acoustic waves to figure out where you’re touching the screen.
That means it can tell how hard you’re pressing on the display, without needing a screen overlay to wreck image quality. It set you back US$1,599 (~NZ$2,673) at the time — pricier than the US$1,199 (~NZ$2,004) that the touch-free G3 would cost, but cheaper than rival systems with overlays built on (yep, it turns out this was a small industry).
Will Apple make a touchscreen Mac in the future? Steve Jobs was always resistant, arguing that “touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical” but then he also said that nobody wanted a stylus and the company was quick to introduce the Apple Pencil after his death. Indeed, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reckons that we could see a MacBook Pro with an OLED touchscreen in 2025.
In the meantime, you’ll just have to scour Ebay for an Elo Mac G3 — though just be aware it’ll likely set you back more than something fresher from the Apple Store, given Michael MJD paid CA$1,765.50 (~NZ$2,160) for his little slice of niche tech history.
Image: Michael MJD / YouTube