The Earliest Known iPad Prototype Was Thick, White, and Perched on Paper Cups

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"I'll tell you a secret. It began with the tablet."

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Networked World

Even before Apple shipped the iPhone, it was working on an iPad. In 2011, Jony Ive was deposed by Samsung in the course of one of the company's many patent-infringement cases against Apple. During the deposition -- in a transcript dug up by Network World's Yoni Heisler -- Ive described the early iPad:

My recollection of first seeing it is very hazy, but it was, I'm guessing, sometime between 2002 and 2004, some but it was I remember seeing this and perhaps models similar to this when we were first exploring tablet designs that ultimately became the iPad.

Heisler then dug through the court documents filed between Apple and Samsung, and found a specimen Apple called its "035 prototype." Which appears to date back to early 2004 or late 2005 -- which would generally match Ive's recollection. And which would also match with Steve Jobs' pronouncement in 2010

I'll tell you a secret. It began with the tablet. I had this idea about having a glass display, a multitouch display you could type on with your fingers. I asked our people about it. And six months later, they came back with this amazing display. And I gave it to one of our really brilliant UI guys. He got [rubber band] scrolling working and some other things, and I thought, 'my God, we can build a phone with this!' So we put the tablet aside, and we went to work on the iPhone.

Well ... that "amazing display" might now be displayed. As Heisler put it: "These photos may be the earliest iPad mockups you'll ever see."

So, behold!

The rounded edge:

ipad_edge.jpeg

The thing in full:

ipad_full.jpeg

The thing in action:

ipad_guy.jpeg

And: cups! The pie-in-the-sky-pad, like the one that finally came to be, lacked a standing mechanism.

ipad_flat.jpeg

What's especially interesting -- besides the tablet's thickness, and roundness, and the resemblance it bears to a white Macbook -- is that there's no home button on the device. Well: that, and the cups.

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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