Twenty years ago, I worked at a firm called Wang.
Long forgotten now, Wang could have been Microsoft or even Apple … but that's another story, and one that should make for a classic case of how to screw up a good firm when the founder leaves.
Anyways, Wang led the world in office automation and had great solutions for Word Processing, Image Processing, Networking, Database Management and more.
In the late 1980s, as leader of their UK Imaging Systems, I received a prototype unit which I still have to this day.
It was called Freestyle, an 80286 Intel Processor Tablet-PC.
The idea was to use a pen, rather than keyboard, for input.
The pen-based input allowed the user to write and draw whatever they wanted and Freestyle's clever software would convert your writing and doodles into compute files and Word documents.
Here is that unit:
Strangely enough, twenty years later, it's not that weird.
It's an iPad … without the 3G or internet stuff basically.
It's got a speaker – the dots below the screen – and a microphone input – the dots in the top right hand corner.
It's got a black and white screen with a stupid stuck-on guide, but bear in mind it's a prototype unit.
It's got printer, VGA and screen projector connections et al:
… as you would expect.
It's even got your headphone socket for playing that funky music:
So yes, it's a tablet-PC in the earliest days of PC's pre-internet.
In fact, looking at my prototype unit and it's functionality, it's an iPad before the iPod and internet age.
Oh yes, and if you want to learn more, here's my colleague from those days, Dr. Stephen Levine, explaining how the concept of Freestyle worked back then:
This was the PC rather than tablet version back then and jeez, I'm feeling older!
Nope, scrub that, I'm demonstrating vision by sharing my very first iPad … twenty years before it was released!