Don't fear the touchscreen MacBook

If you're just tuning in, please update your most-rumored-Apple-device status board to "watch." Repeat: "watch" is the current rumor, having replaced "low-cost iPhone," which in turn replaced "high-cost television."

You don't have a most-rumored-Apple-device status board? How do you get through the week?

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While speculation about an Apple watch is riding high right now, I've been wondering about another potential device--one whose very concept gives me no small amount of trepidation.

The dreaded touchscreen Mac.

Touch of evil

Like a small-town pastor who rails against dancing, I have waged a long and fruitless war against screen-touching. You know what I mean by screen-touching, right? It's when someone feels they have to literally touch the screen of your laptop with the tip of their finger in order to indicate what they're talking about. Apparently the words that we traditionally used to indicate things without physically making contact with them crawled out of the English language to die in a forest somewhere. Now the only way to identify something on a screen is to touch it. Like an animal. I've fought it for years, but I'm starting to wonder if progress isn't on the side of screen-touching.

I hate it when people touch the screen of my MacBook. No amount of complaining, however, has stopped them. "Fingers have oils in them!" I say. "And yours have what appears to be peanut butter on them!" They ignore my entreaties. Touch.

The other day I was performing a task on my MacBook Air while my nine-year-old son was watching. At a critical moment, he suggested hitting what would have been the wrong button by tapping the button on the screen. Like a lunatic, I gasped and said "No, not that!" Not because of my screen-touching aversion but because, for a second, I thought his touch would actually activate the button.

Tablets (and by tablets I mean iPads) have created a new imperative for interaction. While other manufacturers may have shipped touchscreen laptops first, it was Apple that really started us down this road. The difference between an iPhone and a Mac was enough that our brains didn't confuse the two's distinct user-input methods. But when Apple started selling iPads with screens only an inch or two smaller than an 11-inch MacBook Air, something clicked. Now it seems like my MacBook screen should respond when I touch it. Yet it just sits there, unmoved and uncaring, like the Mona Lisa or the Sphinx, except smudged with finger oils and peanut butter.

I've heard the same kind of story from others as well. Now, perhaps we're all subject to some kind of group delusion. But if you've used an iPad--and you probably have--you know that touch has some advantages.

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