For those of us that were around then, the first Tablet PCs came from Microsoft and their partners many years before an Apple iPhone or iPAD was even heard of. They ran a tablet version of Windows and you used them using a ‘pen’ or stylus that allowed you to tap on commands and actually hand-write or draw on the screen.
Similarly the first hand-held ‘smart’ devices, which were called PDAs (personal digital assistants) and were available from Apple (called the Newton), COMPAQ (called the iPAQ), Toshiba (called the Pocket PC), Palm (the Palm Pilot), and many others. These also came with a ‘pen' stylus that allowed you to tap on commands and hand-write or draw on the screen.
I actually have one of those Toshiba Pocket PCs laying around here somewhere, presuming it has not been thrown out in one of my clean ups. I had a quick look but could not find it so here instead is a picture found using Google images. I suspect there are probably millions of these PDA devices lying around in desk drawers or filed away in boxes. They were once the “must have” electronic toy.
But I digress. The point of this post is that both the early Tablet PCs and the PDAs used pens or pointers or styluses to operate.
Well it seems that the tablet PC pen is going to make a comeback, according to an article spotted on Engadget. Apple have filed a patent with the US patent’s office describing the use of a pen for use with the iPad. As much fun as it is using your finger on a touchscreen device there are limitations to what you can do with a chubby finger.
While there are photo-editing applications available for the iPad their capabilities are severely limited by the use of one’s finger to use them. Also, for many people, you still cannot beat being able to make notes using a ‘pen’. With a pen you can add in little side notes, circle things, put in drawings to go with the notes, arrows here and there, etc, etc. None of which you can do accurately or effectively using your finger.
[Image links to Engadget posting. Use Ctrl+Click to open in a new Tab]
The solution is to bring back the ‘pen’ or stylus. This is not a new idea for modern touchscreen devices. HTC already have a ‘digital scribe’ (as they call it) for use with their HTC Flyer Tablet PC.
Once they are released by Apple, and no doubt others will follow, it will be interesting to see how much the idea of using a stylus pen with Tablet PCs catches on.