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A Brief History of Tablet Computers

From the panel PC to wearables, the world of technology always has a surprise for us. However, of particular interest today is the tablet computers. Where did it come from? The idea itself is pretty old, and tablet Computers were first envisioned in the late 1960s by Alan Kay, a computer scientist. He theorized that as flat panel display technology improved, computer components got miniaturized, user interfaces got improved and Wi-Fi technology evolved, a general purpose computing device would soon be invented that would fit into the palm of your hand, and it would even be great as a tool for education, especially among children.

That was a bold prediction to make in the 1960s and, as history would have it, it came true barely four decades later. Here is a list of the different iterations the tablet has had over the years, leading up to the revolutionary iPad that was revealed in 2010.

1987 ― Linus Write-Top

This was one of the very first tablets that had handwriting recognition technology built into them. You could use the stylus on the tablet to write on the screen. For something built in 1987, it was pretty ahead of its time.

1989 ― GridPad

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The GridPad was invented by Jeff Hawkins, who later went on to found Palm Computing. This is often touted as the first true tablet computers and ran on MS-DOS. The greatest customer of this product was the military. The general public, however, pretty much ignored it. It was quite heavy, weighing more than 4 pounds and was also very pricey.

1993 ― Newton

This was Apple’s first ever tablet. It was popularly known as the Newton MessagePad and was the first attempt at a personal digital assistant (PDA), which was believed to be the replacement for the PC. It didn’t work out very well and has since been met with similar amounts of reverence and ridicule. It also had a stylus and handwriting recognition software, though it was rather rudimentary by modern standards.

1997 ― PalmPilot

This was once again designed by Jeff Hawkins of GridPad fame. The PalmPilot was an affordable PDA and eventually got upgraded with a touchscreen, which made it quite popular. It showed that people did want something that was midway between a mobile phone and a laptop and was both easy to use and affordable.

2000 ― Microsoft’s First Tablet PC

Microsoft made a prototype of a tablet PC in 2000 and is often credited with being the first to coin the term “tablet PC.” Because it was a prototype, it never made it to the mass market.

2002 ― Windows XP Tablet

Microsoft made a special version of Windows  XP for tablets, and some companies like Fujitsu went on to make tablets for it.

Mid-2000s

The mid-2000s saw a lot of companies make tablets. Two of the most well-known at the time were the Lenovo ThinkPad and the LS800 from Motion Computing. These were infamous for being pricey, however, and were therefore mostly used by the military and in factories. The LS800 still holds the record for being the smallest tablet computers ever and at the time cost over $2000.

2010 ― Apple iPad

The iPad was the true usher of the modern tablet age. It was introduced in 2010 by Steve Jobs and had a beautiful touchscreen much like the ones on the iPod Touch and the iPhone, which people had already come to love. While a lot of naysayers thought the iPad would fail, it went on to sell hundreds of millions of devices over many iterations in both hardware and software. It also spawned competitors like Samsung, Sony and many others and ushered in an age of unfettered innovation in the tablet market.

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