Face-off: 1979 Apple Graphics Tablet vs. 2010 Apple iPad

30-year-old technology struts its stuff beside today's state-of-the-art tablet computer

When Apple launched the iPad earlier this year, it was the culmination of fans' long wait for the company to enter the tablet computer market. There's no doubt that Apple's iPad is a revolutionary computing device that's ushering in a new era of tablet computing.

But in 1979, an earlier generation of Apple users used a different kind of Apple tablet, back when the word meant something else entirely.

The Apple Graphics Tablet was designed by Summagraphics and sold by Apple Computer Inc. for the Apple II personal microcomputer. (Summagraphics also marketed the device for other platforms as the BitPad.) To be clear, this tablet was not a stand-alone computing device like the iPad. Instead, it was an input device for creating images on the Apple II's screen, and it predated the Apple II's mouse by six years.

Apple II fan Tony Diaz had an Apple Graphics Tablet on hand at last month's KansasFest, an annual convention for diehard Apple II users. He and Computerworld's Ken Gagne, the event's marketing director, compared and contrasted Apple's original tablet with the iPad, snapping photos as they went.

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