In 1979 Apple Computer employed 250 people and they worked in only four buildings there in Cupertino. And looking back now with Apple employing over 110,000 employees and building a new 28 million square foot building, I think we can say that year was smack dab in the middle of Apple’s very early days. The Apple II, released in 1977, was selling like hot cakes and the Macintosh project was just getting underway. Apple had not yet gone public and only incorporated two years earlier.
That same year Apple released the Apple Graphics Tablet (AGT). A highly innovative device used to draw and paint. The tablet drew power directly from the Apple II and was originally to be used with a television set rather than a monitor. It’s easy for us today to look at this tablet and almost snicker, especially considering the capabilities of the new iPad Pro launched this last year. And while the AGT looks archaic now, it was super cool and cutting-edge back then. Unlike the Pro today, it was only an input device for creating images on the Apple II’s screen and for a little perspective, it predated the Apple II’s mouse by six years.
The $650 graphics tablet came with an interface card, a stylus, cables, a plastic overlay, a manual and software on a 5.25-in. floppy disk. This tablet was large too- 15.5 x 15.5 x 1 inches and weighed 6 pounds. The Pro, for comparison, is 12.04 x 8.69 x 0.27 inches and weighs only 1.57 pounds.
One of the most interesting things about the AGT is it required an expansion card that both the tablet and the stylus had to be connected to. The expansion card is crazy looking too, like a robot’s internal organs.
I was fortunate back in 2010 to grab a Mint tablet, along with everything the manual says should be included, short of the piece of foam tape, warranty card and static cloth. I also got one of the first paint programs for the AGT, the Utopia Graphics System, with two disks and mint condition manual.
A real interesting comparison between the AGT and an iPad (not the Pro though) is over at ComputerWorld. Check it out.
I was going to show you how it worked, but couldn’t find a single video on YouTube about it. Crazy.
Source: Apple Graphic Table GIF: Countach