Way back before programs like Photoshop roamed the earth, creating pictures on computers was far from a straightforward process. To make things a little bit easier, Apple released a Graphics Tablet in 1979 which enabled users to draw on the tablet with a wired stylus pen and transfer those creations over to their computer. The original asking price? $650.
The image above is of the original Apple Graphics Tablet released in 1979. At the time, the Apple II plus was the latest and greatest desktop computer offered by Apple. Interestingly enough, one of the first computer paint programs ever created ran on the Apple II in conjunction with Apple’s Graphics Tablet. The software was titled, “Utopia Graphics System,” and believe it or not, was developed by musician Tod Rundgren.
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.
Admittedly, a stylus/tablet combo seems like a rudimentary I/O device by today’s standards, but remember that this tablet hit the market years before the mouse became popularized with the release of the original Macintosh in 1984.
And in case you were wondering, the dimensions of Apple’s first tablet measured 3/4 in x 15 1/2 in x 15 3/4 in.
And delving even further into Apple’s tablet history, the ad below appeared in Apple’s 1981 Spring catalog and touted the Apple Graphics Tablet along with above-mentioned Utopia software.
The Apple Graphics Tablet turns your Apple II system into an artist’s canvas. The tablet offers an exciting medium with easy to use tools and techniques for creating and displaying pictured/pixelated?? information. When used with the Utopia Graphics Tablet System, the number of creative alternatives available to you multiplies before your eyes.
The Utopia Graphics Tablet System includes a wide array of brush types for producing original shapes and functions, and provides 94 color options that can generate 40 unique brush shades. The Utopia Graphics Tablet provides a very easy way to create intricate designs, brilliant colors, and animated graphics.
The back of the device looks like…. well, let’s just say that Apple’s design prowess has come a long way.
Below is a reference manual for the first Apple Graphics Tablet, from 1979. And check out the bottom left – the first indication that Snow Leopard was in the works dates back 30 years!
Some more tablet shots…