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A stunning history of tablet innovations

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The first tablet computer was invented in 1888, when the telautograph included a sheet of paper and pen attached to electromechanical actuators. This early tablet sounds complex and not at all portable. Luckily, tablets have come a long way in 138 years. Want to know more about which tablets paved the way for today’s technology? Here’s a chronological list of tablet innovations.


- The first of its kind -Gridpad tablet

Being the first tablet to incorporate a touchscreen, the GRiDPaD is decidedly the true forefather of tablets. Its game-changing touchscreen incorporated the use of a stylus pen and accompanying handwriting recognition software, both became a familiar feature among later generation tablets. Original patents for the GRiDPaD explain the touch screen as a Cartesian plane displacement, and even describes flipping the device between portrait and landscape orientations for ease of use. Since it was the first of its kind, it featured a hefty price tag; $3,000 with software. Innovator Jeff Hawkins later created the Palm Pilot, which went on to break sales records and change the way we use tablets.


- Extended memory and screen technology -

concerto tablet

The Compaq Concerto series hits on an important milestone in the long line of tablets because of its processor strength and extended memory. The three models each boasted 4MB of RAM, which users could expand to 20MB. The most outstanding feature was its stylus pen and touchscreen, which only worked with the stylus. Later Wacom devices progressed tablet technology with their handwriting recognition technology. The screen itself allowed for 2500 DPI resolution for handwriting. This high resolution made the tablet 10x better than any previous touchscreen for recognizing the stylus pen’s pressure and placement.


- Importance of portability -

Palm Pilot 1000 tablet

Jeff Hawkins, the inventor of the GRiDPad, created the Palm Pilot series of personal digital assistants that gained so much popularity in the mid- to late-90s. Hawkins has said that he carried around a small block of wood in his pocket for a week when he was brainstorming the Palm devices. He wanted to make sure the size would be easy to carry. The Palm Pilot 1000 and Pilot 5000 were released by Palm Computing. Neither of these devices included backlight, infrared port, or even flash memory. But they did include a serial communication port and up to 512kb and 1024kb of RAM. Users could later upgrade their RAM up to 1MB.

Because Palm Pilots didn’t offer much other than simple organization, these tablets were more a niche market. Consumers bought tablets for assistance with work, and didn’t think about them outside of that specific service. Due to this perception, in the following years, tablet devices didn’t advance technologically.


- Internet availability -

Nokia 770 tablet

Prior to 2005, many consumers thought of tablets as simply portable organizational tools. But with the advent of the Nokia 770, internet became one of the main utilizing features of tablet computers. Nokia marketed the device as a “wireless Internet appliance”. This Nokia tablet incorporated Debian-based Linux OS, called Maemo. With the inclusion of the internet on this device, manufacturers were able to market it as a combination of a personal digital assistant (PDA) and an Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC).


- Application invasion -

Archos 5 tablet

This Archos 5 featured a 5-inch touchscreen and an Android platform. This tablet gains a spot in the chronology because of its high-resolution screen, media player, Flash video and game compatibility, and most especially access to some Android applications. It was not successful in the end because of its poor GPS signal reception and limited app availability.

Fortunately, manufacturers further integrated the download and use of applications into tablets following the Archos 5. The first full LTE Android tablet device, ICD’s Ultra, released in 2009 by Verizon. This tablet device included a 7-inch display and full Android application capability.


- Tablets are all the craze -

Apple iPad tablet

There were countless tablets created prior to the Apple iPad. But the release of the iPad in 2010 created more consumer interest than anticipated. iPads flooded the market, making the tablet an officially mainstream option.


- Enter the competition -

Galaxy Note 10 tablet

Shortly after, other manufacturers jumped onto the success of the iPad, further pushing the tablet’s ability to view internet video and news from a portable computer-like device. With the advent of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 in 2012, the iPad gained competition with users because of its solid processor unit, expandable memory, and reliable camera.


- Landscape of tablets -

Because many tablets that are manufactured today use multi-touch screens, so they’re less likely to incorporate a stylus pen. Along with this shift away from stylus, many tablets include the following now-familiar technology:

  • External USB drive
  • Flash memory
  • Bluetooth-enabled keyboards
  • “instant-on” warm-booting
  • Flash memory solid state storage
  • 3G mobile telephony (in some devices)
  • Wi-Fi connectivity
  • ARM processor – which makes a tablet powerful enough for playing mobile games, internet browsing, and light entertainment
  • Access to applications, through App Store and Google Play
  • High-definition, anti-glare display screen
  • Cameras (usually both front- and back-facing)
  • Web browser
  • Portable media playertablet
Our favorite tablets

With all the newer features included in recent generation tablets, its easy to get confused about what is important. Many features are important for different tablet uses. For these reasons, our favorite tablets include the Verizon Ellipsis 8 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab E tablets.

The Ellipsis 8 is compact, with an 8-inch touchscreen, 16GB of memory, 12-days of stand-by time (battery), and comes running on an Android OS. Tab E offers a 9.6” screen and 16 GB of storage space on a litium-ion battery. This Samsung tablet boasts an Android OS, quad-core processor, and Dual HD cameras. Stop by a TCC store to find out what savings we can offer you on either one of these favorite tablet devices.

Despite an extensive history of tablet computers, we might have to wait to see further technological improvements in these devices. But as you see through the improvements listed above, technology can bloom with just one specific improvement. For a more detailed peek into tablet chronology, we encourage you to read “The History of Tablet Computers: A timeline”.

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