TechCrunch has posted pictures of what they're calling an "unlaunched Apple tablet." In 1990, as the story goes, Apple was supposedly working on a pen-based touchscreen tablet called the Pen Mac that was actually extremely small for the time -- just about an inch thick, with a screen the same size as a Mac Portable. They were bringing a few different companies in on the deal, and apparently it worked well -- ran a full Mac OS, used a pen to control or let you plug in a mouse and keyboard, and there was even a smaller version called the PenLite (bulky by today's standards, but remember that this is 20 years ago now).
So why weren't we all using tablet computers 20 years ago? TechCrunch blames John Sculley, who apparently thought the tablet idea was out, and the PDA idea was in, and we ended up with the Newton instead. I won't second guess him -- while it's easy to think that anything could have beaten the Newton, would the current Apple touchscreen tablet craze even be here if it weren't for the iPhone? And isn't Apple's smartphone just a hop, skip and a jump from their original PDA?