Tablet history dates back two decades before iPad
Since the advent of the home computer, tech companies have endeavored to streamline their designs to make computers more mobile. The laptop computer was a success, but progress didn't stop there--tech companies including Samsung and Apple began developing tablets, handheld computers with various features built in a single device not much larger than its display. Here is a look at tablet computers spanning the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s.
The GRiDPad was considered the first tablet marketed to consumers and prior to its full release, it was used exclusively by the U.S. Army. Weighing 4.5 pounds and featuring a 9 x 12 inch, monochromatic touchscreen display, this device came with a stylus pen and ran the MS-DOS system. GRiD Systems Corp. was absorbed by Samsung in 1988, and Samsung manufactured the GRiDPad 1910 one year later.
In 1993, Apple made its first steps into the world of tablet computing with the Newton MessagePad, available in several different models. The differences between the respective devices was negligible; most MessagePads featured a 336 x 240 pixel, black and white display and ran the Newton Operating System. This device was discontinued in 1998.
EO, Inc., a subsidiary of AT&T, released this tablet in April 1993 as the main competitor of the Apple's Newton series. The Personal Communicator featured the AT&T Hobbit microprocessor, which was specifically designed to compute the C programming language, and a 4 MB memory (expandable up to 12 MBs). The Personal Communicator had limited fax and dial-up internet access and was discontinued in 1994.
The Pilot personal digital assistant was an early tablet design released in March 1996. The Pilot 5000, seen here, weighs about 5.6 grams and has a 160 x 160 pixel, monochromatic display. Each Pilot device had a touchscreen display with a stylus pen and also had physical buttons.
The ThinkPad X series computers debuted in 2000 and were well-received by critics due to the hybrid nature of the devices -- the computers function as ultra-thin notebooks and can also convert to tablet mode. The X61 model was released in 2007 and included a 1.6 GHz dual processor, a 12-inch screen and ran Microsoft Windows Vista.
The Compaq TC-4200 is Hewlett-Packard's first hybrid tablet that allows the user to swivel the 12.1-inch screen to quickly change between tablet and laptop modes. The TC-4200 used a 1.86 GHz possessor and included 60 GBs of hard disk memory. This device was released March 1, 2005 and garnered positive reviews for its versatility and battery efficiency.
The iPad was released on April 3, 2010 and saw substantially more commercial success than Apple's Newton MessagePad of 1993. The first generation iPad included the A4 processor and a 265 MB memory to support it. Unlike its successors, the iPad was the only single-core processor tablet in the series. This device was discontinued in March 2011.
Microsoft released the Surface Pro 2 tablet on Oct. 22, 2013. This device greatly improves on the memory storage of its predecessors the Surface and Surface 2. The Surface Pro 2 is available in 64, 128, 256 and 512 GB models and a 1900 x 1080 pixel resolution. Surface tablets also feature USB and MicroSD card ports.
The Kindle Fire HDX was released on Oct. 18, 2013 and has several notable differences from the first Kindle Fire tablet (released in November 2011). The Fire HDX has a 7-inch, 1920 x 1200 high pixel display and a 2.2-GHz quad-core processor, making the Fire HDX the fastest tablet of its size. This device also includes a "mayday" button that can be used to contact Amazon tech support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Samsung released the Galaxy Note 10.1 on Oct. 10, 2013. As its name suggests, this device features a 10.1-inch screen supported by a 2560 x 1600 pixel display. The Galaxy Note 10.1 also offers 3 GB RAM and 16-, 32-, and 64-GB hard drive memory. Users can touch or use the included S Pen's quick command features to interact with the device.
Barnes & Noble's Nook GlowLight e-reader was released Nov. 1, 2013. In addition to be the lightest Nook available on the market (at 6.2 ounces), the GlowLight features a 16-level grayscale display that fully illuminates the touchscreen and an anti-glare coating that helps deflect sunlight. The GlowLight runs on the Android OS and can hold up to 2,000 books with its 4 GB memory.
The iPad Air is a part of the fifth generation of Apple tablets and was released Nov. 1, 2013. The device's specifications are similar to those of the iPad Mini (with retina display)--the iPad Air has a 9.7-inch (diagonal), backlit touchscreen with a 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution. Like the iPhone 5S, the iPad Air is equipped with the A7 graphic and M7 motion processor chips.