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1989's GRIDPad was the first commercial tablet.
What's that? These are all just concepts or fiction? What do you think design is? Apple isn't fighting Samsung on patents, they're saying Samsung duplicated their look. Clearly, the tablet look has been around for thousands of years. But, if it's real equipment you want, real hardware we've got. The first tablet that shipped commercially, as far as I can tell, was the GRIDPad in 1989.
Other tablets, using pen-based computing, soon followed.
The GRIDPad was followed by a slew of other unsuccessful tablets, including—oh the irony—HP's first failed tablet 1992's Compaq Concerto, . It turns out the HP TouchPad had failure in its DNA. Shades of Microsoft Surface, this early hybrid tablet/laptop also had a keyboard.
Fully commercial tablet designs first showed up in the early 90s.
By 1991, though, we also had full tablets, like the Fujitsu PoqetPad.
Look at the record From almost the beginning of recorded history to twenty years before the iPad was introduced, the tablet was a common design. There's nothing new about the iPad's basic design. There never was.