The GRiDPad was a touchscreen tablet manufactured for GRiD Systems Corporation by Samsung in 1989. It is regarded as the first tablet computer directed towards consumers. It was so successful it was used even by the United States Army. Jeff Hawkins went on to use the GRiDPad as a predecessor for his best known-invention, the Palm Pilot.
The GRiDPad measured only 9 x 12 x1.4 inches and weighed 4.5 pounds. The main distinguishing aspect was its touch-screen interface with a stylus, a pen-like tool to aid with precision in a touchscreen device. The stylus was able to use hand writing recognition software. The GRiDPad also included these features:
- 10 MHz 80C86 processors
- MS-DOS operating system – the popular operating system used by IBM PC compatible personal computers
- a monochromatic Colour Graphics Adapter(CGA) display of (640x400) pixels
- 256 or 512KB battery-backed RAM cards
- 1 or 2 MB of system memory
- One serial port, two ATA-FLASH slots, and an expansion bus connector
Because of its use for inventory, the United States Army specified more durable versions of the tablet to be made out of magnesium that were not sold to civilians. The Army specially ordered magnesium because it is a strong yet light metal, making it ideal to be used in combat.
According to a patent submitted in 1992 by an engineer at GRiD Systems, the touch screen in the GRiDPad works by magnifying an internal Cartesian plane (x-y coordinate system) and calculating the displacement. Further patents by Jeff Hawkins describe flipping the screen orientation between landscape and portrait.
Because of its text recognition interface, the GRiDPad was marketed toward specialist consumers who would use the tablet for bookkeeping. The GRiDPad was "designed to streamline the chores of workers such as route delivery drivers and claims adjusters, who typically record data on paper forms." Some of the agencies that used the GRiDPad include, Chrysler, San Jose Police Department, and even the United States Army.
Although the GriDPad had the same operating system as personal computers, it was not designed to be a replacement for computers. Hawkins once said "I never saw pen computers as a replacement for a full PC..." Although it did not replace computers, it did pave the way for other companies to invest more into tablet computers, eventually leading up to the current most popular tablet, the iPad from Apple Inc.
Not only did the GRiDPad start paving the way for tablet computers, it also helped propel Jeff Hawkins' career. Hawkins used the same stylus technology to develop his most commercially successful product, the Palm Pilot, making the GRiDPad its predecessor.
- Barnett, Shawn. "Jeff Hawkin". The man who almost single-handedly revived the handheld computer industry. Pen Computing Magazine.
- Unknown. "GRidPad 1910". Computing History.
- McCracken, Harry. "The Long Fail: A Brief History of Unsuccessful Tablet Computers". PCWorld.
- Liou, Kwang-Wan. "Optical Encoding Methods and Device". United States Patent. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
- Hawkins, Jeff. "Display Output Rotation". United States Patent. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
- Daly, J. "Grid portable writes a new script". COMPUTER WORLD.
- Daly, J. "San Jose police first to use Gridpad". COMPUTER WORLD.
- Atkinson, P (2008). "A bitter pill to swallow: the rise and fall of the tablet computer". Sheffield Hallam University Research Archive (SHURA). Retrieved 13 February 2012.