The Evolution of the Tablet

Other | Thursday 22nd October 2015 | Ben

Technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last 20-30 years. It’s sometimes hard to keep up. Who could have imagined back in the 1980s that we’d have portable devices that we could use to send emails, text messages, watch movies, and play games.

In fact, we’d never even heard of email in the ‘80s. Yet now we can do things we’d never dreamed of via our tablets. We can even visit a casino online without leaving the house.

It’s no wonder they’ve been such a hit. This year it was reported in the Daily Mail that more than half of British households now own a tablet. Easier to transport than a computer or laptop and sporting a greater screen and spec than a smartphone, the tablet has been the result of years of technological evolution.

Here, we take a look back at the development of this versatile device.

The Dynabook (1968): The Dynabook has been regarded as the ‘blueprint’ for today’s laptops and tablet PCs. Designed by computer scientist Alan Kay, it was created as a prototype featuring an integrated touchscreen keyboard and early ‘Graphical User Interface’. Unfortunately the technology needed wasn’t really in place at the time yet this has been dubbed a major inspiration for the systems available today.

The Organiser (1984): The original PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) this was released by Psion and was branded as the ‘world’s first practical pocket computer’. It combined an electronic diary, plus a searchable address database, calculator and clock – all now staple functions of our tablets.

The GRiDPad (1989): Developed by Samsung, the GriDPad is regarded as the first tablet computer designed for consumers. It had a stylus ready screen and advanced handwriting recognition capability instead of a keyboard.

EO Personal Communicator (1991): With a wireless cellular network modem, a built-in microphone and speaker and free subscription to AT&T EasyLink Mail for fax and email messages this was a further step ahead of previous designs. At $2,500 it was an expensive item and never reached mainstream use.

Apple Newton Message Pad (1993): Applications included Notes, Names and Dates, with tools such as a calculator, conversion calculator and time-zone maps. Users could create small documents that contained either typed text or had been recognised from handwriting or free-hand sketches. It wasn’t received well though with complaints about weak battery life and handwriting recognition software that didn’t work.

The Palm Pilot (1996): Cheaper and smaller than the Apple Newton it had a glass touch-screen and the ability to sync with a desktop PC, space for 500 names and addresses and a much bigger memory. It quickly became a household name.

Pocket PC Microsoft (2000): The Pocket PC built on further from the Palm Pilot with the ability to allow users to store and retrieve email, contacts, appointments, tasks, play multimedia files, games and browse the web.

Microsoft Tablet PC (2002): The stylus-based Windows XP Tablet PC had handwriting recognition software but with PC-level RAM, storage and CPU crammed into a tablet it proved to be too heavy and expensive for users.

Kindle E—Reader (2007): Developed to allow people to download and read e-books, magazines, newspapers and other digital media via WI-FI. Although not the first e-reader, the Kindle became one of the most popular devices of its kind for its ease of use and portability, it’s name now a byword for other e-readers.

The iPad (2010): Apple’s iPad was a revolution – and an immediate hit with its hi-tech touch-screen technology and design. Containing thousands of apps it also had Wi-Fi and 3G options. It paved the way for many to follow such as Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, Google’s Nexus and Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Everyone is striving to top or compete with Apple’s top tablet.