The first iPhone was actually dreamed up in 1983. Forget that silly old touchscreen, this iPhone was a landline with full, all-white handset and a built-in screen controlled with a stylus.
The phone was designed for Apple by Hartmut Esslinger, an influential designer who helped make the Apple IIc computer (Apple’s first “portable” computer) and later founded Frogdesign. The 1983 iPhone certainly fits in with Esslinger’s other designs for Apple. It also foreshadows the touchscreens of both the iPhone and iPad.
Images of the 1983 iPhone have been circling the web for a while but there has been renewed interest in Apple’s early designs and history thanks to a peek inside Stanford University’s massive trove of Apple documents. The archives are a close-guarded secret but Stanford is starting to grant access to select journalists and organizations. The archives were donated in 1997 after Steve Jobs rejoined the company and document much of the design and personnel changes that took place in the 1980s.
The 1983 iPhone is just one of many prototypes buried in Apple’s past. There’s even a device that looks eerilysimilar to an iPad. Despite the phone’s age, it actually looks like a cool concept that could easily be updated into a modern consumer product by replacing simple stylus screen with an iPad-like interface.
Mashable has reached out to Stanford to get a private look into the material. Stay tuned for more, but in the mean time, take a look at some pics of the iPhone that never was.
Where does the world’s largest collection of Apple-related history live? In a fascinating archive owned and operated by Stanford University.
But good luck actually finding the trove of hardware, software, recorded interviews, revealing documents, candid photos and internal videos. Everything is stored in a secret Bay Area location away from the Stanford campus.
Unceremoniously housed in boxes that occupy some 600 feet of shelving in a climate-controlled warehouse, the archive contains gems such as handwritten early sales records of the Apple II, a $5,000 loan agreement that helped the fledgling company get off the ground, and a 1976 letter in which a printer warns a friend about a young “joker” named Steve Jobs.
Mashable has reached out to Stanford for more information on why this bonanza of Apple-geek gold hasn’t been made more available for viewing by the general public, but so far has not heard back from university representatives.
The storage warehouse’s undisclosed location is understandable, as it’s easy to imagine obsessed fans trying to break in for peeks — or pieces — of their own. But the lack of more public viewing seems unusual. As a private university with an endowment of more than $16 billion, dearth of funding isn’t a plausible reason.
The Associated Press was recently granted a rare visit to the secret space — but only after agreeing not to divulge its location. Given the swell of public interest in Apple’s story since Jobs’ death in October, could a public museum now be in the works?
The bulk of the collection was originally intended for an Apple corporate museum that never got built. Appledonated the materials to Stanford in 1997, soon after Jobs rejoined the company. The university has since acquired more than 20 additional collections from former Apple employees, executives and business partners to complement the company’s original donation.
The Stanford archive also includes documentation of Apple’s 1985 removal of Jobs as CEO, as well as his subsequent return to the position, which would spark the company’s transformation from a struggling corporation into an international business behemoth.
But the Stanford collection doesn’t just tell the story of one company. The rise of Apple with Jobs at the helm parallels the modern maturation of the technology industry all the way through its ubiquity today.
“Apple Computer is an iconic company in Silicon Valley,” Stanford curator Henry Lowood recently told a university publication. “And by iconic I mean that it’s more than just historically important. It symbolizes a lot of things that we’ve come to associate with Silicon Valley.”
Located in Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stanford has had a long relationship with Apple and its famous co-founder. In a 1985 interview with Playboy magazine, Jobs praised the availability of “fresh made” LSD on the campus during his youth, and in 2005 he gave a now-famous inspirational commencement speech to Stanford’s graduating class.