Lost Media Archive

The original Apple tablet running "Macpaint 3D" nearly 20 years before the invention of the iPad.

The Apple Computer Company needs no introduction. They were a pioneering business in the 1970s and 1980s, and are still a big competitor today. They were responsible for bringing computing to the masses with the Apple 2, Lisa, and arguably most famously, the Macintosh, which was legendarily unveiled through a famous Super Bowl commercial from 1984. In 1985, Steve Jobs unwillingly left and founded another company called NeXT Computer. This caused Apple to lose direction, leading to poor sales and eventually putting the company under the constant threat of bankruptcy. During this 13 year period, Apple created all sorts of different prototypes that were never produced, most being mobile or home devices. One such device was an ultra thin, professional grade drawing tablet, running a unique drawing program known as MacPaint 3D. The program was a version of the MacPaint application with 3D CAD and resistive touch screen capabilities. However this was not the end of these Apple prototypes.


Although today Apple are well known for their phone line (which arguably invented the modern smartphone), Apple IIc designer Hartmut Esslinger originally developed a phone-tablet hybrid which ran a unique version of Mac OS System 1 (likely an early build version) back in 1983. Whilst the phone had the ability to make notes, find contacts and send cheques, as well as having a touch screen, it never made it past the prototype stage. Although it was never released, it is currently on display at the Frog Design Headquarters in Hudson, New York.

The Apple Timeband

The second wristwatch design (name of which was in Japanese in the original magazine)

In 1991, Apple debuted many products in the Japanese magazine Axis, including 2 wrist communicators, a GPS, and a currency exchanger. The first wrist communicator was the Apple Timeband, a virtual watch that may have included a world clock or GPS, and possibly even a cellular function, whereas the second was a flip style communicator with a primitive pointer stick operated OS, (sadly the OS was not seen in the pictures provided). The GPS unit was designed to be attached to a bicycle and ran a unique OS with limited GPS capabilities, using images of landmarks to denote your route and end destination. The currency exchanger was, as the name implies, a currency exchanger with another unique OS, which would scan money to check exchange rates.

Apart from these prototypes, Apple begun developing various PDA devices to accompany their Newton line, advertising them in the 1994 "Newton-only" magazine, Intelligent Newton Magazine. These Newton devices include a Kids Newton, a "Big City" Newton, a Sports Newton (for coaches), and a sleeker version of the MessagePad 2000. Not much is known about these products, although it's possible they didn't even get past the prototype stages.

The GPS unit running a version of Newton OS

One of the most striking prototypes was a pair of Virtual-Reality goggles from 1985, nearly 30 years before the invention of modern VR Headsets. Visually they was styled using Harmut Esslingers "Snow White Design Language", and looked like a pair of Ski Goggles. They operated using very small Floppy Diskettes (about the size of a modern SD Card) which held the VR Games and Programs. Due to the difficulty of photographing VR

The currency exchange in action circa 1991

The Kids Newton (note the robust construction.)

The 'Big City' Newton

The Sports Newton, lacking an Apple logo (note the handle grips.)

The sleeker MessagePad with a protective covering