Here's a little something to tide you over while eagerly awaiting your dutifully pre-ordered iPad (I'm no exception): Tom Dair of Smart Design describes an early design for an Apple tablet, circa 1989. Apple commissioned he and partners Dan Stowell, Dan Formosa and Tucker Viemeister to visualize what may lie in our computing future when, according to Dair, "computers would be mobile and you might even be able to use them outdoors!" The project was completed in 30 days, start to finish.
Whether extremely prescient or just authors of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the Smart Design team were right on the money with regards to some key elements. For example, recognize this machined aluminum speaker detail (a bold suggestion at the time)? The details they got wrong, however, are maybe more interesting, as telling as they are endearingly funny.
As Tom puts it, "In 1989, the World Wide Web was still an idea," and so, instead of the wireless delivery of media we take for granted today, digitized publications would be delivered by mail as a credit card sized chip, which could then be read by the tablet. This is reminiscent of the moment that Harrison Ford drops a quarter in a pay phone in Bladerunner, or of early computer dating services where one was snail-mailed the profiles of potential matches printed out by a big punch-card machine in the basement of a leading university.
We won't give away all the juicy details, so go read Tom's excellent recount of their project on his Fast Company blog here.