iPad’s Shocking Confession! “Daddy was a Compaq!”

Compaq Concerto 1993

Compaq Concerto – 1993   

Integrated high-resolution digitizer — with Wireless Cordless Pen   

Integrated Pen “well”   

Integrated Pen “holder”   

Intel 486/25mhz  (486/33mhz available)   

4mb Memory   

9.5″ Monochrome Backlit LCD VGA Screen   

100mb  hard drive (250mb available)   

3.5″ Diskette Drive   

2 PCMCIA Slotes Type II   

Ports – PS2, serial, parallel, VGA out   

DOS 6.2   

Microsoft Windows for PEN Computers version 1.0   

Integrated stand doubles as a carrying handle.   

“Let’s you work however and wherever you want – with a keyboard or a pen.”   




Ok, is it me… or do the specifications for Compaq’s Concerto “convertible- notebook- tablet- sound vaguely familiar?  (Yes, I now realize that the “finger” is more powerful then the Pen! )  I knew this product pretty well – I had the opportunity to work on the marketing campaign behind this products launch, back in the last millenium, 1993.   Yes.  Nineteen hundred ninety-three… 17 years ago.     

Just get it out of your system, laugh-titter-giggle – yes we DID have electricity then – and automobiles.  And apparently, by all current speculation, a significant head start on tablet computing – at least the rough design and specification.   

The Concerto was a very very cool product.   For the time, it was powerful – light weight and had the leader in mobile computing behind it – not to mention one of the best partner networks that had ever been assembled.   Pen computing was a hot topic, it would have easily been a frequent high scorer with Twitter’s Trending tools in today’s parlance.  The industries best and brightest minds – engineers and marketers – were at Compaq Computer in Houston, TX – and all were focused on creating a pen device that would change the way the world used computers – all hail the conquering pen!    

But alas, pen computing’s time had come (and gone) again.   Why, why, why, why…WHY?  The hardware was beyond state of the art – the marketing – not so bad either – the problem(s)?     

  1. No Developer/ISV partner community ready to understand and commit resources to creating unique and enhanced software.
  2.  It was necessary to convince a prospect that the mouse was “so last year”.   If  they really wanted to be part of the 90’s computing elite and avant-garde – they must replace the blase’ mouse with – wait for it – an electronic pen.    Untethered – of course.  Yup – we were asking people to trade in their mice for an electronic crayon.

So you may be thinking, mmmm…  so it really is about the applications, eh?  Darn right it was, (Compaq’s early success came from their ability to “run thousands of IBM programs”), – and is…   Just take a look at the success of iTunes.   

So with the “Content” and the App’s that Apple so completely understands, combined with great hardware design, (And with a natural human stylus called a “finger”) , Viola!  SUCCESS!   This is how you (Apple) will continue to change the way the world uses computers – all hail the conquering pen, stylus, finger, gesture!  

In conclusion, Please don’t think I am diss’ing the beloved Compaq Concerto, as you can figure out from the spec’s – it ROCKED!   What I am attempting to point out is that;   

  • Being ahead of your time – 17 years ahead – Doesn’t guarantee commercial success (At least at first – Take a look at the amazing Compaq – now HP – Convertible Tablets offered today – Didn’t the tablet at  Balmer’s CES Keynote  look… enticing?)
  •  All great products, technologies, and ideas should always have this quote attached:  “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Sir Isaac Newton

I suspect that the Apple Tablet will be an amazing – ground breaking product – and I am proud to have been around when another great company, Compaq Computer, made a brilliant and valiant attempt to change the way we connect to our computers – almost two decades ago.  

Perhaps, after the inevitable DNA testing,  the beautiful Apple iPad will be able to proudly acknowledge its heritage – or at least salute those who’ve gone before it. 

Apparently, Apple really does have a “Time Machine”. 



Filed under Apple, Uncategorized

13 responses to “iPad’s Shocking Confession! “Daddy was a Compaq!”

  1. I will miss the pen and the extra pounds.
    The impressive thing is that with 100MB of disk and 4 MB of memory you could do essentially the same things you do today.

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  5. Im on my computer every night and more and more I feel it becoming a part of me. At first computers were a foreign thing to me but its an instrument and the user can become one with the instrument. I love the automatization of software.

  6. Robrecht

    Wow, I loved that Concerto design and was so sad to see if flop. I still think the ergonomics of the detachable keyboard are so much better than the standard laptop. I wrote my dissertation on a Compaq SLT-286 with the detachable keyboard on my lap and my feet up on my desk. Some people claimed that I wrote half of my dissertation in my sleep even!

  7. Lim

    I had several Compaq computers in the 90’s, including the Concerto which I bought when I worked in Taiwan. It even had Chinese input. I liked it. Unfortunately, the build quality was bad. The stand kept breaking off within the first year of ownership. I eventually traded in for another Compaq desktop.

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