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Face-off: 1979 Apple Graphics Tablet vs. 2010 Apple iPad

30-year-old technology struts its stuff beside today's state-of-the-art tablet computer

August 13, 2010 06:00 AM ET

old and new Apple logos When Apple launched the iPad earlier this year, it was the culmination of fans' long wait for the company to enter the tablet computer market. There's no doubt that Apple's iPad is a revolutionary computing device that's ushering in a new era of tablet computing.

But in 1979, an earlier generation of Apple users used a different kind of Apple tablet, back when the word meant something else entirely.

The Apple Graphics Tablet was designed by Summagraphics and sold by Apple Computer Inc. for the Apple II personal microcomputer. (Summagraphics also marketed the device for other platforms as the BitPad.) To be clear, this tablet was not a stand-alone computing device like the iPad. Instead, it was an input device for creating images on the Apple II's screen, and it predated the Apple II's mouse by six years.

Apple II fan Tony Diaz had an Apple Graphics Tablet on hand at last month's KansasFest, an annual convention for diehard Apple II users. He and Computerworld's Ken Gagne, the event's marketing director, compared and contrasted Apple's original tablet with the iPad, snapping photos as they went.

Despite the three decades of technology advancements that separate the two devices, some fun comparisons are still possible. Join us for a photo face-off between the two tablets.

Meet the tablets


Apple II Graphics Tablet and iPad side by side

The Apple Graphics Tablet (left) was released in 1979 and cost $650. It connects to any Apple II and can be used to draw images at a resolution of 280 by 192 pixels. The tablet draws power directly from the Apple II and cannot be used when disconnected.

The Apple II was originally designed to be used with televisions rather than computer monitors, but the Apple Graphics Tablet produced interference that could disrupt reception of television signals. A later model was identical to its predecessor except for one notable new feature: FCC compliance.

The Apple iPad (right) was released in 2010 in six models ranging from $499 to $829. Equipped with a 1-GHz A4 system-on-a-chip and a 16GB, 32GB or 64GB flash drive, it syncs with any Macintosh or Windows machine capable of running iTunes and can run thousands of iOS applications. Its resolution is 1024 by 768 pixels on a 9.7-in. LED-backlit glossy widescreen display.



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