Meet the iPad, circa 1983

The iPad is all the rage today, but Apple’s been working on tablet computers for a long time. The Newton is the obvious example of an ancestral form of iDevice, but it was far from the only (or oldest) concept Apple dallied with. While doing some research online I came across these photos of early Apple prototype tablet. Designed as concept pieces in 1983 (pre-Macintosh) by the legendary Frog Design – who did many of Apple’s early designs – these pictures show Apple’s efforts in a very different era:

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The “Bashful” — named after the story-book dwarf in Snow White — was created alongside the Apple II computer series as an extension of the Snow White design language that frog Founder Hartmut Essligner helped create for the company in 1983. Concepts for this early pre-touch tablet included one with an attached keyboard and one with a floppy disk drive and convenient handle for maximum portability. An attached stylus helped the user interact with the screen. [Frog Design]

Given that Apple has been working on tablets for so long, it is a bit odd that the only thing released prior to the debut of the iPhone was the Newton – and this was by John Sculley, while Steve Jobs was at NeXT. When Jobs returned to Apple he famously killed the Newton, which has always been portrayed as a stab at Sculley and a disdain for PDAs.

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But was it? Perhaps as much as anything else the need for a stylus for input rated Jobs’ repeated #FAIL behavior. All of these pre-iDevice tablets use a stylus and/or keyboard for input. It was only when touch screen technology got good enough that Apple finally released it’s first tablet device. And Steve is adamant about using touch, rather than a stylus or a keyboard, on Apple’s mobile computing devices. Hmmm….

For a summary of pre-iPad efforts see Tablet Heritage: The history of Apple’s fabled iSlate.

 


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