Apple’s magical tablet mystery tour

Before Apple pulled the trigger on the iPad, it looked at the tablet form factor many times. A recent blog post looks at Cupertino’s investigation into tablet computing from the earliest days of the Mac.

For Apple watchers, Ryan Vetter at the Liquid Pubs blog offers a wonderful dose of nostalgia in his recent post Apple: Their Tablet Computer History.

Vetter’s post shows are many fantastic ID designs in colors ranging from the Apple gray (called Snow White at the time) to multicolored beauties. Some have telephone handsets attached to them (the TelehoneMac).

Check out: Visioning Apple’s netbook futures

Very interesting are the Macintosh Folio models from 1993, which were designed by Jonathan Ive, Apple’s industrial design guru. He’s been the lead designer since 1997 when the first iMac hit the street. These Folios are in the dark gray color of the time and sport long, rounded organic bulges in places, such as buttons or  doors.

Around the same time was the PenLite, which was based on the PowerBook Duo. I remember talking with several folks on this project. It used a stylus for drawing and other input tasks. There were third-party products made for this model.

In April of 1993, MacWEEK reported that PenLites were being made ready to ship to beta sites for field testing:

The company next month will begin seeding customers with prototypes of the device as part of a massive test-marketing effort that will eventually involve hundreds of prototype units, sources said. Apple hopes to ship its first pen product late this summer, although handwriting recognition may not be available until the end of the year. Sources said the device will probably cost several hundred dollars more than current Duo models.

The pen device is based on a 33-MHz 68030 processor and can accommodate up to 32 Mbytes of RAM, sources said. Like the existing Duos, the pen Mac can be docked for desktop use, but its keyboard will be a separate, detachable unit.

According to sources, the first model will use the standard Finder along with a “digital-ink” system extension that stores pen strokes as bit-mapped graphics and allows some checklist-style input to applications such as forms programs. The initial configuration will not support handwriting recognition.

However, the model never shipped. Vetter suggests that the lack of handwriting APIs was the reason that the release was scrapped.

However, about a quarter after MacWEEK’s headline report on the PenMac came news of another Apple reorganization. All projects within Apple’s Advanced Technology Group came under fire and product managers were asked to submit proposals justifying all development. Of course, strong potential sales were a requirement. The market for tablets in those times was very narrow.

Ah, those were the days, when technology didn’t ship and tablet computers could be the size of today’s desktop CPUs. Good times.

Read the original post on The Apple Core Blog RSS | ZDNet

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