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The Evolution of the Tablet Computer
24 year old tablet - Z88
The Cambridge Z88 was introduced in 1987, and was a serious attempt to revolutionize portable computing. True, it doesn't have a touchscreen or wireless connectivity, but it does has a silent rubber keyboard and a 640x64 monochrome LCD panel built into a tiny frame that's perfect for the boardroom or airplanes.
Another ancient tablet, this time from Linus. Like the Z88, this tablet was launched in 1987. The groovy thing about this tablet is that it recognises your handwritten scrawls and converts them into text at a rate of up to 5 characters per second. It held a 512kb storage card, and ran MS-DOS 3.30, with a rechargeable battery that powered the unit for around 5 hours. Unfortunately this tablet sold poorly (apparently less than 2000 units, priced at more than $2700, which was very expensive at the time), and it disappeared in 1989.
This is a GridPad 1910 manufactured for GRID Systems Corporation by Samsung in the early 1990s. With 2MB of RAM and standard 20MB HD, the tablet has a stylus based input system, a 640 x 480 monochrome display and it runs DOS.
Fujitsu PQ 3010 PoqetPad
In 1991 the Poqet Computer Corporation, in partnership with Fujitsu, introduced the PoqetPad. PoqetPad was a handheld, touch-screen computer with an NEC V20 CPU dhip running at 7 MHz. You can still buy these vintage tablets for around $300. This tablet was one of the first developed by Fujitsu that have since gone from strength to strength.
GRiD 2260 System
The GRiD Systems 2260, launched in 1992, was one of the first convertible tablets. It was also marketed by AST as the PenExec. It was the first notebook with a pen-sensitive screen that could pivot and lie flat against the keyboard for use as a slate. The 2260 had an Intel 386 processor.
It was a rugged unit with a magnesium case. It had a nice screen for the time, a 10.5in active-matrix monochrome VGA display. This unit had a HD of unknown capacity and 768k of RAM. Units came with an AC Adapter, an Original Pen (Styles), EXternal Disk Drive, Printer AdapterCable, Battery Pack, a set of 4 original Manuals and a Bunch of Original Disks.
The GRiDPAD line were one of the earliest tablet style computers. One of the earliest was the GRiDPAD 2050SL. They had a modified MS-DOS operating system designed to work with a pen. They launched in 1992, and you can currently buy them through vintage computer stores for anything between $25 and $100.
AT&T EO Personal Communicator 440
A vintage tablet computer from phone giants AT&T, from around 1993. The EO Personal Communicator 440 can still be found occasionally on eBay and other auction sites.
SONICblue ProGear wireless webpad
Launched in 2000, the SONICblue ProGear wireless webpad (bit of a mouthful) was marketed as 'a wireless portable information appliance targeted to vertical market segments". The ProGear uses Embedded LInux as its internal operating system, includes a 10.4" TFT display, and obtains its user input via either a virtual keyboard or handwriting recognition on its touchscreen.
Archos AV 320
Over the last decade, more and more tablets were developed, and its clear to see how these designs paved the way for the iPad. For example, the Archos Jukebox Multimedia became the first jukebox-style player capable of playing MPEG-4 video files. It's clear to see the likeness with the iPad: this milestone tablet fully achieved its purpose of liberating digital video files from PCs. It launched around the early 2000s, and retailed for around $600.
The Paceblade Pacebook tablet PC dates back to 2002, and uses quite a nifty touchscreen that can be operated by finger or any stylus. The downsides of this tablet were its weight (more than 2 kg) and poor performance. The combination of the 867 MHz Transmeta CPU and the Silicon Motion graphics chip (8 MB video memory) performs so poorly that image loading is jerky when scrolling through a document - unacceptable for the time. The battery life was also an incredibly poor 3 hours.
Nokia 770 Internet Tablet
In 2005 Nokia launched its 770 Internet Tablet. This tablet gave a great internet experience on the go, and is an early model that formed the foundation of modern smartphones. It allowed you to chat to friends using instant messengers or internet calls (not yet fully integrating traditional mobile phone features), and only weighed 230g. For the time, it had a good screen resolution and a decent Texas Instruments OMAP 1710 CPU running at 252 MHz. Its successor was the Nokia N800 in 2007.
In 2006, Samsung teamed up with Intel and Microsoft to create the Samsung Q1 tablet. It was designed for business users that needed a PDA with more features akin to a full PC. It weighs around 800g and is quite large at 22.75x13.95 cm, and some said it wasn't actually very portable. However, it offers a very diverse functionality at quite a good price of Σ800.
Although it's not technically a tablet, the Sony UX is still a nice looking piece of kit from 2006, with a 4.5-inch touchscreen. Since its launch in 2006, a voice capable HSPA modem has been added, plus a faster CPU and larger solid-state hard disk. The original 1.2GHz Core 2 Solo U2200 processor (which was soldered in place) has been swapped with a 1.33GHz Core 2 Duo overclocked to1.438GHz. And the 48GB SSD is replaced with a fast RunCore ProIV 128GB SSD. Amazingly, the battery life is said to be pretty much the same.
A more recent example of a tablet computer is the Asus R2H, an ultra-mobile computer (UMPC) device powered by an Intel Celeron M processor from 2007. It's fairly loaded with features, even including integrated GPS. Asus definetely aimed high by making this device more feature loaded than other UMPC devices. But cramming everything you can into a device with a small screen, underpowered processor and putting a bunch of startup software and processes on it can result in a not so stellar user experience.
Apple Axiotron Modbook
There have been several other tablets since the ASUS R2H, between 2007 and 2008, at which point the iPad was born, and all these tablets were quite simply forgotten overnight, destined for museums. Did you hear about the Axiotron Modbook that was manufactured in 2007? It's the first tablet computer based on Mac hardware and Mac OS X. Axiotron also announced a newer version, Modbook Pro, that is due to be released in 2011.
Apple released the first iPad in April 2010, and sold 3 million of the devices in 80 days. During the October 18, 2010. Financial Conference Call, Steve Jobs announced that Apple had sold more iPads than Macs for the Fiscal Quarter.
Samsung Galaxy Tab
The Samsung Galaxy Tab made its debut in late October, and has sold over a million units to date world wide as the most feature complete tablet on the market carried by Google and multiple carrier support. The questionable price excluded many buyers from considering it, and a wifi-only version has yet to be launched.
Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad 2, the second generation of the devide, at a March 2, 2011. About 33% thinner than its predecessor, the iPad 2 has a better processor, a dual core Apple A5 that Apple says is twice as fast as its predecessor for CPU operations and up to nine times as fast for GPU operations.
The first tablet running the Android 3.0 Honeycomb OS. Motorola is targeting one million sales by mid 2011, which is an ambitious goal, particularly since these devices will cost in the $800 range.