The first Apple Tablet… from 1979

Mon, Nov 23, 2009

Apple History, News

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.

It reads,

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…

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13 Comments For This Post

  1. Halvard Says:

    Stunning!!

    I want one!

  2. Chris Says:

    I remember using a Koala Pad tablet back in the 80′s. It was awesome redrawing the Ghostbusters logo on an Atari 800.

  3. EchoZA Says:

    I had one :(

  4. Alexa Says:

    I found one in a closet in my school. It was so much fun playing with it (mid 80s). I should have taken it.

  5. James Says:

    re: I found one in a closet in my school. It was so much fun playing with it (mid 80s). I should have taken it.

    Yeah, cause that would have been the right thing to do.

  6. J Says:

    I also had the Koala Pad. It wasn’t pressure sensitive but I used it a lot. The only problem is that when you weren’t pressing the pen down, it defaulted to 0,0 in some programs. So when playing Rescue Raiders on the Apple IIe, the helicopter always went to the upper left unless you were constantly pressing down.

  7. überRegenbogen Says:

    I remember drooling over the Apple Graphics Tablet. A downside was that it required specific programming.

    The Koala Pad was interesting (and very easy to programme for) because it looked basically like a joystick to the computer. The upper left corner was about 10,10. Lifting the stylus made it drop below that (usually about 6,6).

  8. Abdulmajeed Altaweel Says:

    Wowwww ther is a taplet in 1979 !!!!!!!
    I think Just apple can do it and they can do it agane in revlotionary tech
    i am whaiting for the new one ;)

  9. Lee Says:

    I also redrew the Ghostbusters logo on my computer.

  10. John Says:

    That’s a cheetah rather than a leopard of any kind. But given that Snow Leopard was all about being pared down and faster, Cheetah would have been a better name!

  11. Tony Says:

    Hey John, in case you did not knew Cheetah was the code name of Mac OS X 10.0 :P I would not call 10.0 faster though, my memory’s of it are of a slow, buggy OS…

  12. connectionfailure Says:

    That’s even older than my Kurta IS/ADB tablet that I used to have… used it with System 6.08 and 7.0 I seem to recall.

  13. A2Computist Says:

    Still have mine, but it’s been years since I’ve used it. I’ll have to dig it out of the closet tonight. I wonder where I put the controller card…

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