back to article First fondleslab found in 1970s kids TV sci-fi gem

At last it can be revealed: Apple owes the look of the "magical" iPad to a team of telepathic teens from the 1970s - The Tomorrow People. The 'jaunting' group's leader, John, played by actor Nicholas Young, could often be seen sporting his futuristic tablet - complete with silvery casing, shiny black bezel and 9.7in display - …


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  1. foo_bar_baz
    Thumb Up

    Wrong colour turtleneck

    That's all.

  2. Aaron Em

    The next stage in human evolution... turtlenecks?

    1. Kevin Reader

      Just ask Jobs...

      That is all.

    2. Graham Marsden

      See Steve Jobs...

      ... for more details!

  3. Mage Silver badge

    Antenna gate

    Obviously being telepathic lack of 3G, or indeed any cellular service wasn't an issue.

    I wonder would I enjoy it as much now as then or simply think it silly?

  4. Brangdon
    Thumb Up


    This kind of thing is why I felt the people who thought tablets were bound to fail, just didn't get it. Tablets appear in SF because they are compelling in a way that netbooks aren't.

  5. thomas newton

    what about

    the flat-panel screens Bowman and Poole are watching during dinner in 2001?

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      darn, beat me to it

      yep. Bowman and Poole FTW. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke gave us our first glimpse of a tablet in 1968

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Attention spans




    I'm sure this article said something about technology...but I just couldn't get past that haircut.

  7. Bilgepipe


    Or perhaps a flat, rectangular-shape with a screen on one face is pretty much the only form factor a tablet computer can take.

    In other news, Moses pre-dates the invention of the paving slab by several thousand years...

    1. Annihilator Silver badge

      re: Moses

      Surely it was God that invented the paving slab if we're basing it on the commandments. There are some who think God invented the iPad too though :-)

      1. AndrueC Silver badge

        Sounds about right.

        >Surely it was God that invented the paving slab if we're basing it on the commandments.

        Sounds about right - he never was one for making life easy.

        "You should live here. It's wonderful" - lacks fresh water, surrounded by enemies on three sides and faces a contested sea on the other side with plenty more enemies waiting to attack.

        "Tell these people where they are going wrong" - results in you being nailed to a tree.

        Any sensible God would have given Moses the commandments on paper. Or better yet, shown everyone in the camp by means of ten metre tall glowing writing in the sky. But no. This poor sod stumbles to the top of a tall mountain and all God can say is "Hello there. Take these paving slabs with you when you go back down willyou? There's a good chap".

      2. Efros

        No prior art

        Moses patented it without God having any record of prior art.

      3. someone up north




    2. Ammaross Danan


      "Or perhaps a flat, rectangular-shape with a screen on one face is pretty much the only form factor a tablet computer can take."

      It isn't so much that it's the only form one can take, and thus it Must Look Like This. It's the fact that Apple patented it claiming it was a unique "invention" having no (known) prior art. Now we have proven prior art (again), their design patent should be void.

  8. Baudwalk
    Jobs Halo

    Is that a stylus?

    How '70s.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    The TP:

    Fab when I was a kid, some clever writing, but truly shocking acting when watched again now (thanks Lovefilm!) :-O

  10. Wang N Staines


    You implied that Apple innovates!!!

    Everything Apple produced could be traced back quite easily. OK maybe not the 2-button mouse.

    Pretty much what the Japanese did in the Hi-Fi industry.

  11. ThomH Silver badge

    Telepathic teens?

    Did the three-day week lead to rationing of birthdays? That guy looks about 30.

    1. Kevin Reader

      Ah but...

      John was as I recall the oldest and the defacto leader. He was probably deemed to be in his 20s. (It was only the awful 90s remake that everyone had to be hyper-young and trendy and so on.... shiver)

      IIRC he had also spent sometime training with the "Galactic Federation". They only dealt with the Tomorrow People, cos they were inherently non-violent. So I guess there was a kind of pacifist/hippy message to it.

      ((Compared to the american's casting of 20-40 year olds as teens the actor was a bit young for the part. ))

  12. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    That's uncanny, although form-follows-function makes it inevitable

    I used to watch the Tomorrow People as one of my favourite shows.

    They did not need 3G or any cellular technology, because they had an alien mentor from a more advanced planet (the Trig) who provided access to a limited amount of advanced technology to augment the still developing telepathic abilities of the group. They regularly used remote data gathering and communication devices, so this proto-ipad probably did not need 3G, and may have used a near-field technology, as it was only used in their lab.

    In addition, they had an advanced AI called TIM who coordinated all of the technology, although it was not portrayed as techno-magic, and there were definite limits to what they could do.

    On a related note, was Captain Kirk in ST-TOS not forever using a device, often given to him by Yeoman Rand (gotta love those uniforms) not an electronic device? I know it used a stylus, so was probably more like a Newton than an iPad, but still.

    1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

      that was a glorified clipboard

      he appeared to be forever signing things on the "futuristic" clipboard, nothing more technical than that.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


        Seriously, a clipboard with buttons! No. I'm sure it was meant to be electronic.

  13. Captain Hogwash
    Thumb Up

    Sci-Fi shows have a habit of predicting the future

    Gerry Anderson's 1970s live-action series Space 1999 successfully foresaw that flared trousers would again be popular close to the end of the millennium. Although it did fail to spot that only the women would bother second time around.

    1. Aaron Em

      What seriously

      Science fiction TV gets a lot of credit for predicting the future, but most of it is undeserved; taken across the genre as a whole the prediction hit rate is extremely low, it's just everybody forgets about the ones that got it wrong and refuses to shut up about the ones which had something that vaguely resembles what the future actually turned out to be.

      Just remember, folks, whenever you catch yourself talking about how your favorite sci-fi predicted some particular part of the future -- no matter how sure you are that you're really right, and it really did -- you're still standing right next to the guy who smells like cheese and won't stop wittering about how if it weren't for Star Trek TOS we'd have never had mobiles. Think twice, won't you?

      1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
        Thumb Down


        For example, no science fiction show has ever predicted the dreadful inability of forum commentards to detect irony!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But it also

      suggested that we would be carrying communication devices made out of a MTV1 Sinclair portable television, complete with CRT display!

      On the uniform front, I prefer those from UFO, although this may just be the streak of lecherousness in me! Such tight slacks, and the Moonbase shiny dresses. Mmmmmmm. Not so keen on the string vests warn by the male Skydiver crew, though.

      1. The Metal Cod


        There were female crew members aboard Sky 1 as well. Search for Georgina Moon. Gabrielle Drake in a Moonbase mini skirt is a very pleasant thought to folk over a certain age. I know at least one man who turns into a gibbering wreck at the mention of Gay Ellis.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Pedantic mode on

          Sky 1 was the flying part of Skydiver 1 (there was more than one Skydiver - there are references to Skydiver 3). The Sky part was the plane, and that only had one crew member, the pilot, who was always the Captain.

          The women on the -diver part did also wear string vests, but had substantial under-garments underneath. Not nearly as interesting as the Moonbase uniforms.

          BTW. The televised version (at least the more recent ITV 4 screenings) of UFO Episode 1 had several scenes cut out when compared to the DVD, which included the conversion of Grabrelle Drake's duty jumpsuit to the mini-skirt recreational garb (while she was wearing it, mind).

          IMHO, UFO was originally targeted as a series for adults, not children, and some of the episodes were originally never broadcast in day/early evening slots, but later in the evening. It was only the association of Gerry Anderson with puppet shows that made the ITV companies play it in the same slots as Stingray/Thunderbirds/Captain Scarlet (normally just before World of Sport on a Saturday morning, or at least that is when LWT and Southern Television played them).

          This adult target explains why it was a much darker series than previous Anderson shows, and contained several episodes that I regard as not suitable for children at all. Definitely set me on the edge of my seat at the age of 9.

          1. The Metal Cod

            *holds hand up*

            Yup, you got me fair and square there on my Skydiver error :) It's been too long since I got my UFO DVDs out. The ITV4 showings were almost as bad as the BBC's editing treatment of Space:1999. Thankfully I have the DVDs of both series.

            Great excuse to get the UFO set out tonight *smile*

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


              I suspect that my post above will be the final, conclusive proof that I am indeed a nurdy geek, even after all these years. Almost all of the post came from memory, with me referring to Wikipedia only as a sanity check. After that feat of memory, it's a shame I can't remember what I saw on telly yesterday.

              My coat is the Parka with the Boxtree Complete Gerry Anderson Episode Guide in the inside pocket.

        2. Kevin Reader


          shocked... that i did not remember that the submarine outfit was unisex.

          Ms Moon may not have had a pose-able toy produced but Ms Drake appears to have had at least two! Well worth googling for the memories...

  14. Anonymous Coward

    prior art

    does that mean apples patent will fail? Prior art !!!

    AT&t could not patent the communications satelite because of prior art because of a description of its form and function in a Arthur C Clarke book !!

    1. Rod Giles

      prior art

      Yes, Arthur C. Clarke did describe geo-stationary orbit in a book, but it wasn't a Sci-Fi book, it was a rocket science book! He also a published a paper in the British Interplanetary Society journal and Wireless World.

      'Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?', published in Wireless World in October 1945

      1. Anonymous Coward

        does it matter

        does it matter where and how its published?... so long as someone else comes up with the concept and acurately describes its form and function then surly that counts as prior art?

        personally, I belive a patent should only be issued once a working prototype can be submitted along with the patent application.

  15. kevin mulholland
    Thumb Up

    also check 2001: A space odyssey

    Tablet computers were available in this film too, though 'made' by IBM

  16. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    1960's Star Trek Unimpressed

  17. The First Dave

    Next Generation ??

    What about the devices that they had in The Original Series? A bit chunkier, certainly, but still a tablet.

  18. JaitcH

    I admit it, I was wrong, Jobs didn't copy the Chinese ...

    who had pads/tablets out months before Apple. but it was devised by ROGER PRICE in his story of the The Tomorrow People, produced by Thames Television for the independent (commercial) British ITV Network, running between 1973 and 1979.

    Still, even though Jobs wasn't the world's slab/pad/tablet inventor - could it be Moses - he was the first in Cupertino. Still prior art though.

  19. AlgernonFlowers4

    All donations gratefully received

    Once I have enough to buy an ipad and airfare, I for one would happily travel back in time using the LHC and plantt the ipad on the tomorrow people set. Send money now or history will start to unravel and you wouldn't want that on your conscience, would you?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    The Dynabook paper was out the previous year

    , in 1972 - - so the Tomorrow People tablet is certainly not the earliest tablet concept. From those pictures it also seems to be pen-based, rather than responding to finger touches. The cosmetic resemblance to the iPad is remarkable, though.

  21. John Savard Silver badge


    If the Tomorrow People are Homo Superior... well, this term has been used elsewhere. So any invidious comparisons to Apple fans would inevitably lead to references to the X-Men and their chief adversary, Magneto.

  22. Christian Berger

    Such ideas are fairly obvious

    But usually you only have 'radicals' like Alan Kay talking about them at first. Then when people in the forums talk about such a technology, and the first companies have brought out devices which are 60% right, Apple brings out a device that's 80% right, but missing some crucial points (like actual usability). Their products get popular thanks to marketing and everybody else copies them badly, again missing the important points.

    One recent example is mobile computing. Early devices just stored a few kilobytes of appointments and telephone numbers and had to be synced via special software. A 2 line display made reading long texts nearly impossible.

    Then later you had the Palm/WindowsCE era. Still nearly no network connectivity, but better displays and external storage. One crucial thing missing is a good shell so you can do some actual work on it.

    Then came the Sharp Zaurus and the Nokia N770. Suddenly you had small mobile devices you could actually _do_ stuff on. And Nokia actually had distribution channels in Europe so the N770 quickly sold out, and they made the N800, the N810 and the current model, the N900. Those are devices which essentially are computers.

    Then Apple brought out their iOS devices which finally could be connected to the network directly and featured a browser. The idea of a ApStore is so much better compared to the usual crude way of installing software on non-free systems, it took off. (Again, payment can easily be done independently of software distribution)

    Still you cannot do anything with it unless you jailbreak it.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Tomorrow People

    My memory is a bit vague now, but wasn't there a drop-dead blonde (female) in it? I seem to remember her being the main reason I watched it.

    1. Platelet


      Carol played by Sammie Winmill

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