I ran my own blog from November 2006 till October 2014. All posts are still online, but I don't have time to update it anymore. Please note that all images and media files have been removed when the backup was moved to a new host in early 2016. Enjoy!

Confirmed: Apple's 1983 phone handled cheques

17. december 2007

I guess you probably heard of the iPhone (if not, check it out here), but you may not know that Apple already designed a phone in the early 1980's. It was never released, but it was a quite interesting concept and some time ago early prototype snapshots were seen on the web. It's quite difficult to identify screen content on the snapshots, therefore I enhanced them a bit, as you can see down below (images 2 and 3).



The original 1983 Apple phone had been designed by Hartmut Esslinger, who was later also responsible of the Apple IIc computer. When it was designed, Apple was just shipping the new Lisa computer and was still working on their top secret Macintosh project (Steve Jobs should have taken over the Mac project at that time point if I remember well).

Nevertheless, the Apple phone already featured a flat screen that could be operated using a pen (attached to be phone by a cable, which remembers me the old light pens available for 8 bit home computers back then). The screen probably wasn't intended to be a real touchscreen though.

But it already featured a real black and white GUI, offering an address book and eventually some other features (maybe even FAX support?) A keyboard could be displayed on the screen so that you could typ letters using the pen. There was no handwriting recognition yet, the first PDA (the Apple Newton) was only released ten years later in 1993. So here's an image of the address book software:


When I optimized another picture I found this really interesting screen - apparently the Apple phone should be used for payments too, as the lower part of the screen definately shows a cheque (can somebody identify the bank name?) I suppose the upper half of the screen shows a list of bills or payments. Here's the pic:



Why was it never released? Well, I guess it should have been quite expensive, and there may not have been a real market for it back then (it would probably have been a nice gadget for executives, though, at least the payment/cheque feature suggests this kind of target market). Apple didn't have a problem with over-priced hardware in the 1980's, but I think the potential customer base would have been way to small.

Don't know if there were any working prototypes or if any of them still exist today. Anyway, 1983 was just after the breakup of AT&T, a lot of companies were working on phones that were never released back then.