A stylus is a pen-shaped plastic device used to interact with a touch screen of a computer related device. There are a wide range of types and materials available, ranging from composite plastic, rubber and wood. The purpose of a stylus is to allow the user to interact with a computer device without using a human finger.
The stylus has become more common due to the reduction in the price of touch screen technology. In the mid 1990s, the price for a touch screen transistor was prohibitively expensive. Due to advances in the technology, moving away from these materials to lower-cost solutions, everything from handheld computers to gaming devices may now use a stylus.
The modern stylus was invented in a desire to create a tool that interacted with a computer screen that was very fragile, required precise integration and to avoid the impact of oil and dirt from human fingers on the screen. The stylus gained wide acceptance when combined with touch screen technology. It was able to provide a similar feel to writing with a pen or pencil, but without any ink and with the benefit of inputting the data into a computer.
The actual history of the stylus dates back to the ancient people of Mesopotamia. Various different materials were used to create styli (the plural), including reeds, bone, metal and wood. They were used to write in cuneiform, making an impression in a clay tablet with a wedge or writing tool.
The use of a stylus quickly increased as writing on clay tablets, leather and other materials required detailed work that could be legible by others. The linear nature of writing further encouraged their use as a practical tool for this purpose. They were still in wide use until the middle of the 19th century.
By this stage, users had progressed from clay to wax tablets. These tablets were used for everything from student notes, account recording and creation of literary works. The stylus had also adapted over time, with one end for writing and the other end flattened for erasing.
The stylus is still used as a writing tool today, as it can be used in a wide range of temperatures, requires no ink and has a very low friction level. These features made it popular for writing into smoked glass or foil. They have also been used with seismography and sailplane records.