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(Image: In My View)
1996: Pilot 1000
It was 1996. Spin City and Sabrina: The Teenage Witch were debuting on TV. It was a great year for bad blockbuster movies, with Independence Day, Twister, and The Rock dominating movie screens the world over. And US Robotics (not yet even called Palm) had introduced the Pilot 1000 and Pilot 5000 (the name "PalmPilot" was a trademark lawsuit still in the future).
While slightly different in form from the iOS devices, the Pilot had four main application buttons along the bottom of the device (hard buttons, this time) and a grid of application buttons on the main screen. The Pilot, famously, also used a weird form of handwriting recognition we all got to know for about a decade called Graffiti.
1993: Newton MessagePad
As the DeLorean comes in for a landing, we discover the original Apple handheld device, the original Newton MessagePad. The MessagePad actually shows six main icons (hmmm ... our current iPads will also support six main icons) and a grid of supporting applications.
It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Present day: Windows tablet
Finally, just as an exercise in contrast, I present to you the Windows 8 tablet. Doesn't look at all like the old Pilot, original iPhone, or 1993 Newton, does it?
I guess it is possible to innovate a little when it comes to interface design. Granted, the Windows 8 device has its limits, but there's no doubt that Apple's launcher interface is long in the tooth.