I think we can all agree that tablets aren’t some passing fad and are here to stay. Would it surprise you to know that we’ve actually had tablets around us for several years already? Would it also surprise you to know that I’ve got more history with tablets than I do with smartphones? Yup! We go way back!

Newton MessagePad 2000

Although I started with a MessagePad 130, I ended with a 2000U (that’s a 2000 that was sent in to get the 2100 upgrade). This was my life line. Literally. After having suffered an acute injury to the brain I was left with an impaired short-term memory and the inability to gauge the passage of time. This tablet from Apple helped me keep my appointments and let me take notes of important events and experiences so  I wouldn’t forget them. (I’ll share more about what happened and how I used technology to get me though later this week.)

In the days before the iPad and Android-powered tablets, you could eat up Martha on your Newton. Bah!

Handheld PC

Handheld PC
It was like a computer, that couldn’t do anything!

When the late Steve Jobs was brought back into Apple and killed the Newton, I jumped ship to Microsoft and went with their Handheld PC platform. Although this picture shows an NEC, my device was a Casio (it looked almost identical). The Windows CE solution wasn’t nearly as usable, as user-friendly, or as capable as the Newton, but it could sync with my email, calendar, and contacts better than the Newton, and it did what I needed it to.

Tablet PC

Tablet PC
Microsoft had a tablet WAY before the iPad.

I’m probably one of the few people that owned and regularly used a Microsoft tablet — a long time before their Surface tablets were announced. Mine was a Toshiba with a built-in keyboard. I know what you’re saying, “that’s called a ‘laptop’, Joe”, and you’re right. It was a laptop running a pen-friendly version of Windows. Unlike most laptops, you could swivel the screen around and use it as a slate  — albeit a thick one.

This configuration was ideal for my life as a college student. I could use the machine as a regular laptop to type notes on, but when I needed to draw charts and graphs for other subjects, the tablet had me covered: I’d simply swivel the screen and draw my stuff directly on it. It worked great!

Motorola XOOM

I thought Xoom had a Z in it.

To compete with Apple’s iPad, Google and Motorola teamed up to make the first “officially sanctioned” Android-powered tablet. Other than the Honeycomb OS that it ran it was pretty good. I found myself not using it much once the novelty wore off. After all, I was carrying around an Android-powered smartphone that did everything the XOOM did, and in a much smaller package.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

Galaxy Tab
Speaking of smaller packages…

Samsung decided to “think different” (sorry, had to do it!) and broke from the “10-inch” rut that every tablet maker seemed to have found themselves in. Their 7-inch tablet was literally pocketable — but looked somewhat funny sticking out of said pocket. Even though my smartphone could still do everything this tablet could, the Tab was small enough to warrant taking it with me to work, to meetings, and even to the occasional social gathering.

Unfortunately, it, too, ran on Honeycomb, even with the XOOM and other tablets receiving updates to Ice Cream Sandwich.

Nexus 7

Nexus 7
What do you think we should call this 7-inch Nexus?

Today you’ll find me sporting not only an Android-powered smartphone but a Jelly Bean-powered Nexus 7 as well. It, too, is pocketable, and even fits in most of my shirt pockets. Yes. Shirt pockets. It’s fast, it’s not as “fragile-feeling” as the Tab 7.7, and it does what I need it to do.

Unfortunately, even this most recent tablet isn’t as easy to use and is still missing key features and functionality that my MessagePad had. That’s okay, I suppose, the iPad is missing them, too.

Image Credits: Newton, Inc.; Motorola; Samsung; Toshiba; NEC; Google/Asus

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