Behold! The Early-2000s iPad Prototype That Started It All

Prototype 035: it sounds like a nail-biting action RPG but it’s actually one of the first iPad prototypes, built years before the iPhone, and laid by the wayside as Apple kept experimenting with new form factors. The iPad in question, according to a great bit of digging by Yoni Heisler at NetworkWorld, is the one that Jonathan Ive remembers as being the true precursor to the first iPad model.

In December 2011, Samsung deposed Ive in relation to a patent case. The deposition is a goldmine of interesting facts about the growth of the iPad and its slow metamorphosis over the years. He recalled, in the deposition, that he had seen iPad prototypes as early as 2002:

My recollection of first seeing it is very hazy, but it was, I’m guessing, sometime between 2002 and 2004, some but it was I remember seeing this and perhaps models similar to this when we were first exploring tablet designs that ultimately became the iPad.

The device shown above is clearly more of a MacBook cut in half than a real device, but everything is there: the port at the bottom, the big glass screen, and a smug, self-satisfied user imagining how great Angry Birds will be a decade later. There is also no home button, which is indicative of the direction Jobs and Apple were trying to take during that period.

It’s a fun little trip down memory lane, and, more important, it shows us that Apple prototypes the future sooner than most companies ship the present.