Tablet computing is older than you think. In 1968. Yes. 1968. Many of us weren’t even born at that time. It all started with Alan Kay, a computer science researcher at Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC). It was the first device to have wireless internet connectivity, something that we all take for granted today.
It had a 9-inch B/W LCD screen, built-in physical keyboard, an included stylus, ability to play songs and videos and weighed under 9lbs. (4 kg). All this was projected for a cost of mere US$500 in 1972.
The sad thing was, the product remained a concept and was never shipped. You can have a view of the tablet here:
Then there was Apple, which decided to jump into the tablet market with their product. But their product was more of an attachment to the main device rather than a standalone device itself. It was named, Apple Graphics Tablet, which could be attached to their Apple II and could be then used to draw, write, sketch in with a stylus attached to the tablet. It was a boon to graphic designers and designers, who wanted to have free-hand strokes in their next master-piece but were limited to the accuracy of mouse, or the lack of it.
Portable computers were the new hunger busters at Apple. They just didn’t want to rest their tempt to bring something new and small and powerful to the common masses. In 1987, in absence of Steve Jobs, they came up with yet again a portable computing device, the Knowledge Navigator, or KN. KN could access the web, receive multi-touch and voice commands(!), make phone calls, built-in dictation and much more. And you thought iPhone4S was hot. Not to be forgotten though, due to lack of marketing maestro Jobs, Apple had hard time making it reach till the consumers and it died before it even started to breathe properly.
Click here for the 5 minutes of pure tech nirvana of its time:
In 1989, Jeff Hawkins, founder of PALM computing and his team created a tablet computer called the GRiDPAD. With a larger screen (10-inch B/W), slick design and true multi-tasking platform for the first time, it was the first real hand-held computer which was commercially available. It had 3 hours of usage on just 3-celled nickel-cadmium rechargeable battery and weighed under 2.5kg. Several factors led to its evaporation from the market, one of them being cost. At US$2370, this wasn’t the cheapest of them all, but the bang for the buck was there. Only if it had been marketed more aggressively, the iPad would be in our hands in 2006 only.
Apple, in 1993, introduced another horse into the race. The Newton MessagePad, which introduced the concept of Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). It was far more ahead of its time. Far. More. Ahead. It was smart. It understood what you are actually doing, thanks to the brains at Apple. It included a full glorified list of features; hand-writing recognition, internet connectivity, e-mail, send faxes from the device itself, high-resolution display by that age’s standard (remember, we’re in 1993), battery life which lasts for days, wireless infrared beaming, synchronization with PC/Mac, interchangeable memory cards, support for hundreds of program, phew! And it ran some games of the Atari age too! It was the changing face of the mobile phones; mobiles which were going to be much more capable and much more sophisticated from here.
Year 1996. The competition saw soaring of competitors in response to Apple’s Newton. Palm made a bold move and launched Pilot. The bold move proved to be successful for Palm and the Pilot was accepted modestly in the market. It had all the features the Newton had, and even some more. Pilot didn’t use rechargeable batteries. Instead it used 2 (two) AAA-sized batteries to run the device. It was launched at a price much lower than Newton, at US$299. Palm would take the smartphone market as the emerging leaders from there with block-buster devices like Palm Treo, only to be put back again by strong competition posed by smartphone makers flooding the market with better devices. However, the OS was not good enough to keep peopled fooled for long.
In 2000, Microsoft went a step further and released their tablet friendly version of Windows, Windows CE. The OS was tailor-made for all the touch-screen salivating consumers, which was, well, effective, no matter how the reviews go. But the sheer bulkiness of the machines running it was enough of a reason for people to aside with the “the tablet”, gaining only a small percent of market share. Nevertheless, the platform did set standards upon which the foundation of this age’s tablet OS were going to be designed, in a much more intuitive way, minus the stylus.
So, here it was. Your 10-minute guide to the story behind the history of tablets.
Throw in your questions about all such devices you want to add/modify to this list in the forum topic here.