Posts tagged “tablet”.

Beige and pinstripe Apple tablets

March 2nd, 2011

It’s only appropriate that today, on the day Steve Jobs announced the iPad 2, that Thomas Brand from Egg Freckles released a tablet for classic Mac lovers: the above G3-era version.

This after I challenged him with a hypothetical blueberry model. Boy, does that guy deliver or what?

Also: a beige model, for the classic lovers. Love how the Apple logo could serve as the new Home button.

While the iPad 2 is the first iPad I’ve considered buying, I would pick up a pinstripe Apple tablet in a heartbeat.

Apple’s tablet history

November 11th, 2010

Ryan Vetter at Liquidpubs:

Since the Macintosh division, as well as many others at Apple, saw the Newton as something that could very well make desktop computers extinct, they decided to develop a Newton-like Mac. Something that could act like a portable, slate-like device. But, unlike the Newton, these devices would run Mac software, with a full Mac operating system, and work with a keyboard and mouse. It was a bridge between the original Macintosh and the new, mobile powerhouse: the Newton.

What proceeds this is a fascinating tour of Apple’s history designing tablet computers – and not just the Newton, but tablet-style Apple IIs and Macs as well.

Reading through this, you get the impression that the folks at Apple have been obsessed with portables for a very long time. All these years later, it’s what the company is best know for.

[Via Minimal Mac.]

Web Pad: iBook G3 as tablet

August 9th, 2010

Jeff Paradiso's Web Pad

Before the iPad? The iBook tablet mod.

That was Jeff Paradiso’s idea:

Paradiso, a graphic designer from Boston, took a touch-screen iBook (an after-market modification from Troll Touch), disassembled it, cut a screen-sized hole in its lid, and flipped the screen around so that it faces outwards instead of towards the keyboard. Paradiso changed the desktop icons to large buttons and uses the operating system’s built-in, on-screen keyboard to get around.

After the Web Pad’s construction, Paradiso posted pictures of the iBook’s progress from weird, sturdy notebook to practical tablet.

It’s all a bit like Axiotron’s Modbook idea, except built in true DIY fashion. And it was from several years ago, when an iBook G3 was still a capable web-surfing, video-watching Mac. Today you’d have to do it with a Macbook.

The tablet era

March 31st, 2010

Steven Levy’s concise, polished view of the tablet revolution in this month’s Wired (I’m a magazine subscriber) gives a nod to the Newton in one of the “tablets through the ages” sidebar. It was the polite thing to do after talking about Apple’s iPad, the failed Windows Tablet, and the possibility of a Google Chrome OS tablet in the near future.

What’s amazing is that Apple has released some high-tech dopamine in tech pundit’s pleasure zones. Some connection has been made between the iPad, the future of computing, and the hypothalamus – and Levy says the victim will be the graphical user interface we know and (perhaps) love:

One thing we do know is that a heated battle is breaking out over the grave site of the GUI. While unveiling the most heralded Apple product since the iPhone, Jobs presented a powerful and compelling vision of what comes next.

This is the fascinating part of this whole storyline: that now, at the crux of touchscreens and cloud computing and the gee-whiz interface Apple has created, we’ve reached Nirvana.Wired's Newton graphic

Which makes me wonder about other visions of the future, particularly Google’s. After playing around with a few Android devices, I can imagine some powerful tablets featuring Google’s mobile operating system. Forget Chrome OS; Android, to me, offers a much more compelling option if you want to pit the iPad against a true rival.

The open app system, the configurability, the relative polish, the touchscreen interface. It’s all there. For some, the iPad’s computing appliance metaphor is what they’ve always wanted. Less details, less trouble.

But for geeks, an Android-powered tablet is a something to think about.

In any case, it’s nice that the editors at Wired gave the Newton a bit of credit for helping to usher in this Tablet Era – and rightfully so. Rarely is a technology born in the water fully-formed. There are incremental steps along the way. The plow led to the horse-drawn plow led to the John Deere A (that my father, and many farmers, collect) to the modern giant thresher. And just like farmers like to admire and appreciate the classic John Deeres (my dad used to drive one in our town’s Independence Day parade), we can appreciate the quirks and personality of the Newton.

Also, those classic tractors are still useful and running well, with some maintenance. We keep our MessagePads and eMates chugging along as well, even when iPads have passed them by.

iPad: Back to the future

February 2nd, 2010

Apple iPad

Apple finally introduced the iPad tablet computer last Wednesday, confirming rumors that have been circulating since before I started Newton Poetry a few years ago. From then to now, I’ve read article after article and rumor after rumor – everything from claiming this new device was the second coming of the Newton to a giant iPod Touch.

Sometimes keeping track of everything was exhausting. Even more than the iPhone, the mythical Apple tablet kept rumor sites in business for years. Then, when so many confirmations gelled together, most Apple fans knew what was coming when Steve Jobs hit the stage on January 27 in San Francisco.

Many, many tech writers invested in a lot of detective work to flesh out this device, and I think a lot of credit goes to them for softening the holy-crap blow that this device would’ve otherwise caused us to have. The iPad’s introduction was nothing like the iPhone introduction because we had all seen and heard it before. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Nothing remarkable, nothing earth-shattering – just steady progress, and tiny chips brushed away from the mobile sculture Apple is crafting.

This project, the giant move to mobile computing Apple has been working on since the day of the original PowerBook and Newton MessagePad, has essentially come to fruition in the form of the iPad. Jobs mentioned (and reports back him up) that Apple is primarily a mobile device company. It’s the powerful combination of a touch-based interface, a world-conquering application platform, and – most of all – the opportunity that is still to come.

That’s the key. I think the earth-shattering part will come in the form of something we haven’t even seen yet. We might even have trouble knowing it when we see it.

For some, the iPad doesn’t seem like much now. But just wait, says Steven Fry in a much-linked post:

In the future, when [the iPad] has two cameras for fully featured video conferencing, GPS and who knows what else built in (1080 HD TV reception and recording and nano projection, for example) and when the iBook store has recorded its 100 millionth download and the thousands of accessories and peripherals that have invented uses for iPad that we simply can’t now imagine – when that has happened it will all have seemed so natural and inevitable that today’s nay-sayers and sceptics will have forgotten that they ever doubted its potential.

All ready, I’m seeing fantastic ideas about what the iPad can become, given some time.

The iPad, like the original Macintosh, ships with basic task-oriented software titles, like iWork, that make it a capable machine. With the Mac, the explosion in innovation came when desktop publishers realized what a powerful machine they had sitting on their desks. With the iPad, a similar spark will happen.

The tech echo chamber is resounding this notion that the computer-as-appliance has finally arrived. The iPad is the computer your grandma can use without calling you for tech support every week. The details have been abstracted away – and use whatever car metaphor makes you comfortable here.

And that’s probably true. But something tells me the future is brighter than grandma. The iPad will gain mutant electro-superpowers after the proverbial lightning strikes.

Storms a-brewin’.

Behold! The tablet descends

January 27th, 2010

From Ken Fager on his Flickr account, drawn with an MP2100.

Steve Jobs descended to the base of Mt. Yerba Buena and unveiled the tablet to the gathered unwashed masses…

Today’s the big day, eh?

[Via @kenfagerdotcom.]

Apple’s first tablet-type device: Graphics Tablet

January 26th, 2010

Apple Graphics Tablet ad

Edible Apple has a great look back at the original Apple-designed tablet device – not a computer, but more of an input mechanism like today’s Wacom tablets.

Released in 1979, during the Apple II era, the $650 Graphics Tablet had issues upon release:

The Graphics Tablet, however, wasn’t exactly a runaway hit as it was subsequently discontinued when the FCC found that it caused radio frequency interference problems.

Apple went back to the drawing board, and in 1983, it released a second iteration of the graphics tablet, which was right around the time when the Apple IIe was in production.

Check out the rest of Edible Apple’s post for more great pictures.

[Via Dave Caolo, via Splorp.]

The tablet before the tablet

January 25th, 2010

Newton tablet mockup

Now that an Apple event later this month is official, the tablet rumor mill will churn with industrial-level speed.

The consensus, from what I’ve read: 7-10″ touchscreen, digestable media (print, video, and otherwise), apps ala carte, and some sort of web connection. All that’s almost certain. And, on the surface, the rumored Apple tablet sounds like an updated Newton MessagePad.

Any similarities are superficial, of course. At 12 years old, even the youngest Newton shows it age. But let’s say we were to take a MessagePad 2000 or 2100, or even an eMate 300, and bring it as close to a modern-day Apple tablet as possible. What would we need?

To start, we’d need applications – and lots of them. We’d also need some connectivity with our Macs or PCs. Some sort of media viewability would have to be there, as would an Internet connection. For people to use it, they need to easily understand how it works. Lastly, we’d need support from Apple.

Fat chance on that last one, and we’d never get a color screen, but the rest of that checklist is doable with the Newton. It wouldn’t be as fast, colorful, or rich as a yet-to-exist Apple tablet. But as a proto-tablet, the Newton is it.

As Wired points out in a recent article about network computer (from Oracle’s Larry Ellison):

We tend to think of technology as a steady march, a progression of increasingly better mousetraps that succeed based on their merits. But in the end, evolution may provide a better model for how technological battles are won. One mutation does not, by itself, define progress. Instead, it creates another potential path for development, sparking additional changes and improvements until one finally breaks through and establishes a new organism.

It’s a great article about how technology often gets ahead of itself in the idea department. In time, the tech catches up with the brainstorm.

I couldn’t help but think of the Newton while reading the piece. In this case, Apple pre-empts itself with its own device.

APPLICATIONS

We’ve seen pieces of the Newton, and of PDAs in general, transform into the modern smartphone: personal information management, notes, on-the-go apps. The Newton was made to be a stripped-down PC to take on the road; not quite as powerful, and much more portable, than a laptop. You could sync it with your computer, or you could run the device completely on its own.

Except for the syncing part, the iPhone does this. In fact, I know friends who only sync their iPhone when they have new iTunes content to upload. Most of the time they’re downloading apps and digesting music from Apple’s mobile apps. After the initial set-up, and if you ignore every software update available, it’s possible to control your iPhone without ever syncing again.

Same with the Newton. It was designed as a mobile computer – a standalone unite – just as some think that Apple’s supposed tablet might be.

Along with the hardware interface, the key is good software. The Newton had its share. In fact, it had apps like the ones Apple brags about in its iPhone commercials – financial apps, games, personal information apps, etc. Some developers are still making apps for the Newton, and work continues of Mac and Windows apps that help manage the device.

The iPhone’s popularity comes partly from its depth and breadth of apps. It’s safe to assume that this app-friendly environment will translate to the tablet.

USABILITY

The Newton’s level of abstraction – souping up a notepad metaphor and controlling it with a pen/stylus – helped make the device understandable. With a tablet, Apple has already done the hard work by standardizing the touchscreen interface. In both cases, Apple takes the prevailing interface innovation of the day and runs with it.

With the Newton, it was pen-based computing. With the iPhone, tablet, and even the mouse/trackpad, Apple is taking touch and building an empire.

MEDIA

In the Newton’s day, consuming iTunes-level media was tough. Hard drives weren’t big enough, Internet speeds weren’t fast enough, and the software didn’t exist to manage all that music and all those movies. We had Quicktime, and some simple CD players, but there’s no way I could have ripped my 8,000-song music library onto the computers of the day.

Given that, there were ways to consume media with the Newton. You can listen to music on one, with a little push and pull, and the Newton’s eBook format is still in use today, with tons of titles available. All before Amazon.com ever launched.

Think of the Newton, and the iPhone today, as the perfect airport device. If you don’t want to lug a bunch of books or a laptop on a trip, the portable Newton is perfect. Read a book, play a few games, scribble some notes to yourself. Whatever. If you’re a small business owner, or hooked up to a large corporate network, you can even get some work done.

This is the tablet ideal: something portable to carry all your consumable stuff.

INTERNET CONNECTION

The Newton was one of the first devices to help the idea of e-mail spread with NewtonMail. Here was a handhald mini computer that you could use to send faxes, make phone calls, and check your e-mail – and even browse the Internet.

A wifi card, a newer-model Newton, and some driver-fu, and you are still in business.

As fun and geeky as it is to connect with a Newton, it still pales to Mobile Safari. The web has grown up a lot, and it makes it almost silly to think about doing anything other than checking out text-only sites.

Now, exceptions exist. If you’re a member of the Newton community, half the fun is seeing how many exceptions you can create. But accessing the web is where the tablet will really shine.

The point is, Apple paved the way in accessing the web from a mobile device with the Newton. With the iPhone and soon, supposedly, the tablet, it’s built a mature system.

FAILURE BEFORE SUCCESS

As the Wired article shows, pioneering projects often come out before the world is ready for them. For Oracle, the network PC lacked the infrastructure to deliver Internet-on-demand computing. But it helped show that the desktop computer wasn’t the last best idea out there.

It is worth noting that, in retrospect, the Newton was an expensive gadget. Without comparing specs and ability, when you look at a $500 unsubsidized iPhone compared to a $1,000 PDA, it’s easy to see where the Newton stretched the average American’s budget too tightly. It could be that, at the time, the technology simply cost more then than comparable technology costs now. Lower costs certainly lead to wider adoption, which explains why the Newton struggled to gain momentum.

But still, with the Newton, the idea of a mobile, self-sustaining device that allows you to consume media, get some work done, and make connections in an intuitive way was set in motion before the world was ready. Apple has shown, with the iPod and iPhone model, that the MessagePad ideals are still viable and ready for action.

Now that everyone is waiting with clenched teeth for the rumored tablet, the Newton ideal seems like it has finally found its place in the world.

Newton quote of the week: the original

January 15th, 2010

“If Apple had shipped a Newton OS device the size of a Palm Pilot for $400 by 1995, the world might be a very different place today.”

- John Gruber, in a great Daring Fireball piece. A must-read for any Newton fan.

Apple.com, circa 1993

January 11th, 2010

Apple.com, circa 1993

Here’s the tablet before the tablet.

With all this talk of a tablet-type device set to descend from the foggy Olympus of Cupertino, I thought it might help to look back at Apple’s first flat computing device.

Yes, about 17 years ago Apple Computer released the original Newton MessagePad (OMP, or MessagePad 100). In August 1993, the company introduced a crude version of then-CEO John Sculley’s “Knowledge Navigator” concept. It was arguably the first personal digital assistant.

So I dreamed up what Apple.com might have looked like at the Newton’s launch in 1993, 10 years after my original retro Apple.com site featuring the Lisa in 1983.

This comes at the tail-end of the John Sculley era, right before the Mac PowerPC era, in the murky past when System 7 roamed the landscape and the PowerBook was changing the way we viewed laptop computers.

Behind the scenes, Apple was in full tablet mode. They saw it as a potential post-Mac future.

Back on the ground, Apple was having trouble seeing its dream become a reality. The OMP’s launch was plagued with problems, lowered expectations, and tragedy. But the idea – that you could do your computing and personal data management on the go – became reality, and it required a stylus.

Like the iPhone lacking its App Store, the Newton wasn’t fully operational at its August 1993 launch. Handwriting recognition was still iffy, and NewtonMail wasn’t operational yet. Some would argue that the Newton platform didn’t reach its true potential until the Newton OS 2.0 was released and the MessagePad 2×00 series came around. By then, however, the Newton brand had been stained, and the PDA line was finally killed by Steve Jobs in 1997.

For this retro Apple.com, I bowed to popular demand and used Apple’s skinny version of Garamond. I much prefer the new Myriad variation Apple uses, but some said the Garamond would look more authentic. So here it is.

The site also shows what was happening in the Apple ecosystem in 1993: the Mac TV would be released later in the year, the Power CD (both a music CD player and a CD-ROM for Macs) was the newest gadget, and capable Macs like the affordable LC III ruled the Macintosh world.

With all the talk of a rumored tablet, let’s not forget that, once upon a time, Apple had a tablet-style computer that ran apps, held ebooks, let you check e-mail, and managed your personal information. Now we use smartphones, but at the time the PDA was the closest thing to a tablet we could get.

Also remember: while the Apple press and public are busy waiting for some rumored tablet, there’s a big group of people out there using the original Apple tablet.