Smart Design’s Proto-iPad

The results of an Apple-commissioned tablet project from 1989


Always ahead of the curve, even 20 years ago Apple envisioned computers as a source of personal entertainment—a mobile device that could capture images, play music, and serve as a platform for viewing catalogs and magazines. In a recent Fast Company article, Smart Design co-founder Tom Dair takes a look back to 1989 when Apple challenged his company and a couple others to develop concepts for a tablet device.

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With only 30 days to complete the project, the Smart Design team got busy imagining various uses for the tablet. The prototype included features such as a high-quality lens for directly capturing and working with images, a guitar chord touch screen that allowed users to strum along with music played on built-in speakers, as well as a bevy of solutions for carrying and protecting the rectangular aluminum machine.

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Possibilities for the tablet seemed limitless—Smart even imagined taking it to the moon. Now working on how publications will be viewed on the new iPad, the renowned design studio continues to experiment with the future of technology.