Here’s an early interview with Arthur C. Clarke in which he describes what computing will be like for a young boy when he grows up and finds himself in the year 2001:
“He will have in his house, not a computer as big as this, but at least a console through which he can talk to his friendly local computer of his every day life: his bank statements, his theatre reservations…all the information you need in the course of living in a complex, modern society. It will be in a compact form in his own house and he’ll take it as much for granted as we take the telephone.”
FOSS patents has quoted a portion of an exhibit filed by Samsung with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Apple, including text and an image. The image (seen above) is from Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which shows (quoting the exhibit) “…two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers.” It continues:
“…As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor.”
Samsung is referring to what Arthur C. Clarke called the “Newspad,” a device that people used to watch TV and read newspapers. Here’s a quote from his novel, describing the Newspad that my colleague Steve Sande pointed out last year:
“When he tired of official reports and memoranda and minutes, he would plug his foolscap-sized Newspad into the ship’s information circuit and scan the latest reports from Earth. One by one he would conjure up the world’s major electronic papers; he knew the codes of the more important ones by heart, and had no need to consult the list on the back of his pad. Switching to the display unit’s short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him.
Each had its own two-digit reference; when he punched that, the postage-stamp-sized rectangle would expand until it neatly filled the screen and he could read it with comfort. When he had finished, he would flash back to the complete page and select a new subject for detailed examination.
Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man’s quest for perfect communications. Here he was, far out in space, speeding away from Earth at thousands of miles an hour, yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased. (That very word “newspaper,” of course, was an anachronistic hangover into the age of electronics.) The text was updated automatically on every hour; even if one read only the English versions, one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever-changing flow of information from the news satellites.
It was hard to imagine how the system could be improved or made more convenient. But sooner or later, Floyd guessed, it would pass away, to be replaced by something as unimaginable as the Newspad itself would have been to Caxton or Gutenberg.”
It seems profoundly unlikely that Apple based the iPad on Kubrick’s depiction of Clarke’s Newspad. For starters, it’s hardly the only example of a tablet-like device in science fiction. The Star Trek PADD, or Personal Access Display Device, is the most obvious example, and has existed in various incarnations across the franchise’s many series:
Good luck to Samsung on this one. I think it’s a stretch. You can watch a clip from “2001” featuring the Newspad after the break.