This Is The Early iPad Prototype That Made Steve Jobs Give Us The iPhone

iphoneprototype1

As the story goes, before the iPhone was even a glimmer in Steve Jobs’s eye, Jonny Ive came to him with a prototype for a tablet based on some new touchscreen technology he was working on. Steve Jobs took one look at it, and said it was the future, but “let’s make a phone with it first.” And that’s how the iPhone was born.

Now, an early prototype of a very iPad-ish iPhone prototype from 2005 has turned up, and it’s a marvelous beast, filled with USB, Ethernet and even serial ports.

The prototype was recovered by Ars Technica from a former Apple employee who worked on various Cupertino hardware products in the early 2000s.

The early prototype — which the unnamed engineer stresses was one that not even the designers knew what it would be — is characterized by a massive 5 x 7 inch display. If you think that’s big, it is, for an iPhone, but at 8.6 inches, it’s still smaller than an iPad’s 9.7 inch display. Also, keep in mind, Jonny Ive said some prototypes were actually twelve inches, so this is still pretty small.

“Seems large now,” said Ars’s source, “but at the time it was really impressive seeing basically a version of OS X running on it.

The various weird PC legacy ports were just to help make programming the thing easier: no one expected the finished product to actually have any of them.

Intriguingly, even back then, Apple was working with Samsung to manufacture iPhones:

The ARM chip looks like a variant of the Samsung S3C2410, which Ars Associate Writer Andrew Cunningham said is “a distant relative of the chip the first iPhone ended up using, just older and slower.”

Indeed, the chip shown above was clocked at 200-233MHz, while the first 2007 iPhone used a 620MHz chip underclocked to 412Mhz. “This chip is also an ARM9 chip, while the original iPhone eventually ended up using an ARM11 chip, but obviously Apple intended to use Samsung-manufactured ARM chips even this far back,” Cunningham said.

It’s worth noting that this wasn’t a product that was ever meant to ship. It’s huge: closer, maybe, to a hacked together ModBook than an iPad, let alone an iPhone. Still, it’s fantastic to finally see such an early prototype of a device that birthed Apple’s touchscreen revolution, and a living artifact of the development of the iPhone.

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  • amilwani

    even though the old ipad is not as beautiful as the ones we have now. im sure this would have been a hit then.

  • 3ugeene

    if anyone interested – the dev board is littlechips LN2410SBC

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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