Apple Intelligent Keyboard Prototype


An engineer who worked on the project writes:

In 1990, Apple was looking at various portable computer ideas, something inexpensive and very light and versatile. One product that was on the market already was the Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 100. It was a boxy keyboard that had a 40x8 character display and was used as a portable word processor. A few execs at Apple looked at that and wondered what an Apple version of that form factor might look like, so they gathered six of us in a room and asked us if we could make something like that. At the time, Apple sold both Macintosh and Apple II computers and they had something called ADB as the keyboard interface. We conceived a keyboard sized device that would have a 640x100 pixel display, a full sized keyboard and 32k of storage. The idea was you could carry it with you and it would work on batteries, and when you plugged it into your Mac or Apple IIgs it would show up as a small disk drive that you could access the files directly. It would also operate as a standard keyboard when attached - so convenient. The software was going to be similar to AppleWorks (The Apple II text based version with the file card interface). It would do word processing, simple spreadsheets, and a little list managing database. Originally, it was going to have two 8-bit processors, a 6502 and an 8051. We started designing and writing software, and even had a graphics package for it with text rendering, a rudimentary text editor, and a file manager type system. As the project went on, it was decided that we would switch to a 32-bit 68331 processor instead of 2 8-bit chips. Around then it became apparent that portable computing was taking off in the form of laptops and they were not going to be heavy with lead-acid batteries and the project was scrapped. The board you have is the one with dual 8-bit processors and 32k of RAM.


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