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I'm writing a technical document for a large wall-mounted machine. The machine has one or more of what we would normally call "screens" integrated into it. I'm looking for a word, or a phrase, which I can use for unambiguously referring to the "screens".

Here's some background context:
Each "screen" unit consists of a display and a touchscreen. The unit is manufactured by disassembling a monitor, which is serially produced in very large quantities, and extracting needed components from the monitor.
To make things even more interesting, the unit will be displaying screens, such as pop-up screens, menu screens and so on. I'll most likely need to use all 3 words in the same document.

So up until now, the terms monitor, display and screen are already reserved. I could use something like "video display unit", "physical display", "display/touchscreen assembly", but I'm looking for something that is less cumbersome to use and a bit shorter.

So is there any alternative word, or short commonly understood phrase, which can be used to refer to what I have?

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    "the unit will be displaying screens, such as pop-up screens, menu screens and so on." These are not screens. The monitor/display is 'a screen' everything else on it is either a pop-up, a dialog [modal or non-modal], a floater or a window [though I've probably missed a couple]. Once you stop referring to UI elements as screens, that leaves you with a single actual screen to refer to. – Tetsujin Jun 26 '18 at 10:41
  • @Tetsujin That is indeed true, but the "GUI screens" are already too deeply entrenched in the existing documentation, and I can't fix that. Still, a good thing to have in mind for fresh projects. – AndrejaKo Jun 26 '18 at 11:09
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    Just because it's already been mis-used is really no excuse to continue in that vein. Best would be to use correct terminology throughout. Poor terminology is the bane of tech support. If it's wrong in the docs, then how is it ever going to be useful later? – Tetsujin Jun 26 '18 at 11:29
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    @Tetsujin I of course understand that point, but it's really not as simple as going through a few documents and changing stuff. The machines are safety-critical, there's already more than 10 000 pages of documentation, for each paragraph, 3-5 people need to approve it, and if it's approved, then it needs to be re-approved if any changes have been made, so something as simple as fixing obvious typos is pretty much impossible once a document has gone out of draft phase and been approved. It's just too expensive. – AndrejaKo Jun 26 '18 at 11:41
  • What do you mean by "touchscreen'? If you mean a device that both displays images and accepts input by physical contact, then why are speaking of a "display" and "touchscreen" separately? If it accepts input, but doesn't display images, then it's not a touchscreen, it's a touchpad. – Acccumulation Jun 26 '18 at 14:55
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If I understand you correctly, there is a touch-screen device accompanied by at least one monitor-like device.

If you consistently refer to these devices as follows, hyphenated and in mixed upper-and-lower case, you can avoid ambiguous references to Reactor Temperature Control Screen or whatever.

Display-Screen

Touch-Screen

You could substitute "Device" for "Screen" if the hyphenated reuse of the word gives you the willies.

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A display and touchscreen can be thought of as a (modern) terminal:

2 : a combination of a keyboard and output device (such as a video display unit) by which data can be entered into or output from a computer or electronic communications system

Note: The definition of the adjective is the first shown at the linked webpage. Scroll down to get to the noun.


As an update, I have discovered a definition for kiosk that does not imply "screen-only," but provides for the addition of user input (something which I had not understood it to mean until now). This could be a more modern take on terminal.

2 : a small stand-alone device providing information and services on a computer screen · a museum with interactive kiosks

  • I don't see that use mentioned in the definition you link to. "Terminal" was used in the age of mainframes to refer to a machine that connected to the mainframe, and has the connotation of remote access, rather than simply I/O. – Acccumulation Jun 26 '18 at 14:53
  • @Acccumulation Scroll down. The definition of the noun is listed below that of the adjective. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jun 26 '18 at 14:55
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If I understand your configuration correctly, you have a component that is a normal monitor/display (no touch capabilities) and another component that is a touch-input device. You then connect these two* components into an assembly your documents refer to as a screen.

If I have the scenario correct, then here are my thoughts:

These components are hardware, first and foremost. When hardware is invented, the intent is to build something that will perform a specific function. These early versions of the device are usually "bare-bones" as far as abilities go.

Over time, features are added to the hardware device either by

  1. software (drivers, firmware, etc)
  2. adding hardware (adding a button, or an antenna, etc)

Over time, we end up with a piece of hardware that is "feature-rich"

I think, for your scenario, try to go back to the roots of the actual hardware devices - for instance, after reading your question, the phrase that popped in to my head was "view-port" or "viewing-portal."

I would also seek to eliminate the word "screen" from the term used to describe the touch-input device. In my opinion, the word "screen", when added to "touch", evokes the idea that data will be displayed, which can be interacted with by touching it.

So, with all that said, here are some words/phrases that might be closer to what you are looking form, for the various components:

View port viewing portal output portal display-output touch-input

I would plug these into a thesaurus - you might find exactly what you need.

*other parts of assembly not important to this question.

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I would suggest "control panel".

(by extension) A computer display offering a number of controls or options.

A second option is "human-machine interface" which is just shortened to "HMI".

Both of these suggestions have the disadvantage of being generic terms that can refer to many different similar things. However, in my experience they are frequently used to refer to a specific thing in a particular context. Since you are writing the documentation, you have the opportunity to define the term for your context.

Control panel can also refer to a panel with physical buttons or dials, so you should take care to avoid confusion if the machine also has something like that.

In my industry (water treatment, USA), these touchscreen controls like you describe are frequently called human-machine interfaces, which is shortened to HMI or colloquially, HMI screens. This may be regional or industry specific.

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