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Apple touchscreen and tablet prototypes - 1980s
Apple touchscreen and tablet prototypes - 1980s
These two designs never made it to market, but they continue to inspire Apple's products.

First, industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger -- who actually assembled the Gizmodo Gallery -- developed a monochrome touch screen computer that could be operated with a stylus. These days it looks a lot like a precursor to the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Esslinger had been working for Sony when his work caught the eye of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who offered the designer an eye-popping $1 million contract. In the process of creating the touch screen, Esslinger also developed the "Snow White design," an aesthetic motif characterized by the machine's off-white color and a shape framed by horizontal and vertical lines. The design was ultimately applied to all Apple products from 1984 to 1990.

Esslinger also used the Snow White design to create a tablet computer for Apple, which has yet to see the light of day. Rumors have swirled for months that Apple will roll out a touch screen tablet PC that can run on a 3G network.

The blogosphere says we can expect to see an Apple tablet computer in stores by early 2010 -- but Esslinger saw it in his mind's eye decades ago.

NEXT: Rosetta Disk - 2009

Last updated September 23 2009: 11:26 AM ET
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