The Telautograph, invented by Elisha Gray in 1886, allowed an operator to duplicate a handwritten message over wire.
In 1961, researchers create the RAND Tablet, the first two-dimensional writing surface that allows humans to commuicate instantly with computer through characters printed on a tablet.
Alan Kay envisioned the DynaBook tablet compluter at Xerox PARC in 1968.
A mockup of Alan Kay's DynaBook.
A futuristic vision of the tablet computer, courtesy of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick in the seminal 2001 A Space Odyssey.
The Atlas DEC PDP 15 digital input tablet designed for tech labs and schools. Obsolete by 1973.
The Apple Graphics Tablet for the Apple II, introduced in 1979.
The PenCept PenPad 200, a handwriting-only computer terminal that was a direct replacement for the VT-100 and other standard ANSI 3.62 terminals, but with a digitizing tablet and electronic pen instead of a keyboard.
The GRiDPad was a touchscreen computer manufactured by GRiD Systems Corporation in 1989. It was the first of its kind, and served as the inspiration for the Palm Pilot.
The Apple Newton was an early PDA and the first commercial foray into tablet computing from Apple.
In 1991 the Poqet Computer Corporation, in partnership with Fujitsu, introduced the PoqetPad: a handheld, touch-screen computer with an NEC V20 CPU chip running at 7 MHz.
The US Robotics Palm Pilot, introduced in 1996, paved the way for affordable, easy to use handheld computers.
The Everex Freestyle PDA, running WindowsCE from Microsoft. The WindowsCE PDA devices were never as successful as those from Palm, garnering only a small market share.
In 2001, Microsoft attempted to once again move into the personal computing device market with devices like the Compaq Tablet PC; packing the full Windows XP operating system into a handheld unit. It never took off.
The Axiotron Modbook is an aftermarket modification of existing MacBooks.. Send them your MacBook, and they would rebuild it as a tablet.
The Microsoft Origami project was meant to redefine mobile computing by creating ultra-mobile PC devices with a full operating system installed. They were underpowered and had poor battery life, and inevitably unsuccessful. Consumers felt that the small size made a full desktop OS difficult to use.
In April of 2010, Apple introduced the iPad, a tablet-sized variation of the iPhone. Apple had been originally developing the iPad, but decided to bring the phone to market first instead. It has set the standard for modern day tablet computing.
HP's foray into the tablet market, backed by Microsoft. After over a year of delays and supply difficulties, the HP Slate 500 was intoduced to positive reviews and yawns from the consumers. The existing iPads and Android tablets had already eaten what little market share they could have gleaned. Users still feel the full desktop OS is not appropriate on a tablet.
The first Android tablet from a major technology manufacturer, the Samsung Galaxy Tab has sold very well. Only time will tell if Google and Android have the capability to grab the top spot in tablet computing the way they have with smartphones.