As the build up to the rumored release of a tablet computer from Apple marches on, it seems like a good time to remember that this isn’t the first time tablet computing has been on everyone’s minds … last time it was Microsoft everyone was oohing and ahhing over.

With the fervor continuing to build for the long-rumored Apple Tablet, you would think this is the first time such a device has come into existence.  Well, it isn’t, and it actually isn’t the first time even a touchscreen has been talked about.  That particular honor happened on Dec. 27, 1940 when a U.S. patent was granted on a “Telautograph System”, of course it never went anywhere, but people have been thinking about touchscreens and tablets that far back.

mstabletWhere tablets really came about was in the early 1990’s when “pen computing” was the buzz word being brandied about.  The idea was that we would replace keyboards and mice with a stylus that resembled a pen, and we would use handwriting recognition to do the majority of our input.  Some of these models did make it out, but due to the weak handwriting recognition, they never took off, and the idea was shelved for several years.

The next thing to hit was a tablet version of Windows XP, and this is where most people think of those keyboards with a screen that would swivel around to convert to a tablet.  While those did exist in the early part of the last decade, by the time we got to around 2005, there were actual, honest to goodness tablets out there.  With the release of Windows Vista you no longer needed a separate edition of Windows to run a tablet, but it still wasn’t catching on because … well … it was Windows Vista.

Windows 7 is also capable of running tablets, but of course now all eyes are on Apple, and the Windows-based tablets are fighting that war now.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year was drowning in tablets, and of course you also have the whole CrunchPad/JooJoo debacle to thank for getting the concept back into people’s heads again.

If the rumors of a price tag of $800 to $1000 are true for the Apple Tablet, you may see some people bulk at the price, but long for the idea of a simple device that is light, flat and easy to carry.  While Apple may be stealing some of the thunder of devices that came before it, you may find them getting some ancillary glory as people now seek out cheaper alternatives.