Friday, 2 November 2012

Long Before the iPad

The current popularity of 'tablets' such as Apple's iPad is an interesting development. The earliest such device I am aware of, though, goes back to 1996 – yes, sixteen years ago!

This was Acorn's NewsPAD (News Personal Access Device) that downloaded news and similar information automatically, according to your specifications. Thus you could pick from categories, and also set up include or exclude filters (e.g. include pets but exclude hamsters) to tailor your downloads.

Here is the NewsPAD...

The device was designed specifically for Spain, where the data structure and download facilities to provide the information and work with the (then new) technology were being put in place. The NewsPAD itself operated via a touch-screen as is the norm for such devices...but note from the photograph that it was a RISC OS system (the icon bar is a real give-away) on a 10·4" display of 800 x 600 pixels.

It could also drive an external monitor at up to 1,600 x 600 pixels, though at a reduced colour depth. As one might expect, it had CD-quality stereo sound capability and even a built-in speaker, as well as the headphones output for top-quality listening.

Of course, it also featured the world's best and clearest text display with no colour fringing (unlike on Microsoft and Apple systems, for example), there was a docking station facility and much more besides.

Thus it is worth remembering that, when you next power-up your shiny new iPad or whatever, it's really not that new an idea at all...

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