Apple WALT – Was This the First iPhone? [Vintage Tech]

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WALT.jpg

A rare and interesting Apple prototype surfaced on eBay recently, and although the auction has since ended we thought it notable enough to merit mention. A 1993 prototype called a WALT – Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone – combined a telephone, fax, personal address book and more with a HyperCard user interface. It never shipped, but this vaporware breakthrough netted the seller a cool $8000 on eBay.

Like the Newton MessagePad, which it resembled, WALT had a touchscreen, a stylus, and handwriting recognition. Unlike the Newton (and the iPhone) it was designed to be a desktop (landline) phone companion, developed in cooperation with Bell South. The seller wrote in the eBay description:

The W.A.LT. is an incredibly rare find and will make your collection the envy of all the Apple fanatics out there. Apple introduced W.A.LT. at 1993′s MacWorld Boston yet never made it available to the public. The revolutionary product’s acronym stands for Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone. This device featured a high-resolution touch screen LCD w/ stylus, hand writing recognition, fax, address book, caller ID, online banking, speakerphone, message pad, and personalized ring tones. Clearly a device way ahead of it’s time.

The W.A.LT. ran Mac OS 6.0.8 with Hypercard in place of the Finder. It was co-developed with Bell South. It also has hidden support for external SCSI and VGA out. This rare model (#68) is one of the few prototypes in existence. I even have an printed manual from Apple! Back in 2008 PC World published a list of the “Top 15 Vaporware Products of All Time”. The W.A.L.T. was #1.

WALT rear

In addition to PowerBook style SCSI and video connectors, the rear panel also seems to sport an ADB port and audio out jack. Somewhat of a Mac in Newton’s Clothing. Part phone, part tablet, the WALT is another example of Apple thinking outside the traditional computer form factor box long before the iDevice craze.

But had he been with Apple at that time, the stylus driven interface wouldn’t have passed muster with Steve Jobs!