A graphics tablet (or digitizer, digitizing tablet, graphics pad, drawing tablet) is a computer input device that allows one to hand-draw images and graphics, similar to the way one draws images with a pencil and paper. These tablets may also be used to capture data or handwritten signatures. It can also be used to trace an image from a piece of paper which is taped or otherwise secured to the surface. Capturing data in this way, either by tracing or entering the corners of linear poly-lines or shapes is called digitizing.
A graphics tablet (also called pen pad or digitizer) consists of a flat surface upon which the user may "draw" or trace an image using an attached stylus, a pen-like drawing apparatus. The image generally does not appear on the tablet itself but, rather, is displayed on the computer monitor. Some tablets, however, come as a functioning secondary computer screen that you can interact with images directly by using the stylus.
Some tablets are intended as a general replacement for a mouse as the primary pointing and navigation device for desktop computers.
History and background
The first electronic handwriting tablet was the Telautograph, patented by Elisha Gray in 1888. Elisha Gray is best known as a contemporaneous inventor of the telephone to Alexander Graham Bell.
The first graphics tablet resembling contemporary tablets and used for handwriting recognition by a computer was the Stylator 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.
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