15 years before the iPad

In 1995 ABC Science reported on the work of a “skunkworks” team that had the concept of a tablet device which would change the future, but they weren’t working for Apple.

The Knight-Ridder company was once the USA’s second largest newspaper publisher. It put together a small team to explore how the digital revolution might affect their core business. How should newspapers adapt? 

The work of the “skunkworks” team was way ahead of its time. Led by the visionary Roger Fidler, they came up with an entirely new product:-  a tablet computer weighing about a kilogram with a touch screen and resolution as sharp as paper. They anticipated that consumers would find this device a far more convenient way to read newspapers and, not only that, they would also use it to communicate with friends and family and directly interact with advertisors to make purchases. 

Envisaged in 1995, the team’s vision predated the advent of Apple’s iPad by more than 15 years! The similarity is so striking that when Apple sued Samsung over infringing its iPad patents, the Samsung lawyers argued that the Knight-Ridder research was “prior art”, and therefore many of Apple’s patents were invalid because the ideas were not original. 

The jury did not agree. What do you think?

Postscript: Shortly after this video was made, Knight-Ridder closed Roger Fidler’s research project. A changed corporate leadership saw no urgency in pursuing the concept of a tablet. After all the newspaper business was still very profitable, and Roger’s tablet was considered to be so far into the future as to be science fiction.

Today, Roger Fidler owns an iPad and the Knight-Ridder company is no more. 

One can only wonder what might have been …

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