So it came as no big surprise when Steve Jobs eventually axed the project after returning in 1997 to whip the company back into shape. As it turns out, nearly a decade later Jobs revisited the scene of the crime to reinvent the PDA for the internet age, and wound up with a few devices that would have made the Newton proud: the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
It’s almost hard to remember at this point, but there was a time when our gadgets — much like TVs of old — didn’t have beautiful color screens. That is, until Atari announced the Lynx in 1989. One of the very first products to ever feature a color portable display, the Lynx’s advanced technology and ambidextrous design (which let lefty gamers get in on the action) helped it clearly stand out in the early days of portable video game players.
But limited supplies and a $180 price tag nearly double that of the venerable Nintendo Game Boy helped seal its fate; within another six years Atari would shut down its video game console business completely, and today the once mighty giant is little more than a brand and back catalog being traded from video game publisher to video game publisher.
Sony LIBRIé EBR-1000EP
While the Kindle might be synonymous with e-book readers in most people’s minds, the first reader to sport an electronic ink display wasn’t made by Amazon. The Sony LIBRIé hit stores in Japan in early 2004, and while early users marveled at its print-like display, they didn’t love that books purchased for it expired after 60 days.
Sony eventually introduced a cousin of the LIBRIé, the Reader, in the US a couple of years later, but was never able to attract many buyers — requiring a PC to download and transfer books was just one of many obstacles to widespread adoption.
Archos Gmini 400
For years Steve Jobs refused to make a video iPod — he said no one would watch video on a tiny screen — but that didn’t stop Archos from creating the first iPod-sized personal video player back in 2004. Watching movies wasn’t exactly easy on the Gmini 400’s tiny 2.2-inch screen, but you could do that, as well as listen to music, look at photos, and play games.
Early adopters loved its versatility, but the Gmini never went mainstream, partly because Archos lacked an iTunes-like store for buying video (finding legal movie downloads was nearly impossible in 2004). Eventually Steve changed his mind, and it turned out being the first to do portable video didn’t matter so much; while Archos continues with its Vision line of portable video players, the Gmini is all but forgotten.
Psion MC 400
Released in 1989, the MC400 was Psion’s answer to overpriced, barely portable laptops. Smaller and lighter than the competition, what the MC400 — which was essentially an organizer — lacked in functionality it made up for in portability. And while it couldn’t do as much as a PC, the MC400 did have a lot going for it: a multitasking OS with a graphical user interface called EPOC, a full-sized keyboard with touch pad, hot swappable memory, up to 60 hours of battery life, and slots for adding a modem, fax, barcode scanner, or voice recorder.
A high price (it initially sold in the UK for £845) and lack of compatibility with PCs kept buyers away, with Psion struggling for another 12 years before calling it quits. EPOC, however, survived and became the basis for the Symbian OS found in Nokia phones.
As seen on TIME