5 surprising early versions of your favourite tech
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were your tech products. The chances are it went through loads of iterations before emerging as the sleek device you love today, and some of these iteratations are…well, pretty shocking, to be honest. Here are some surprising early versions of beloved gadgets.
What we got: a world changing touch screen smartphone with on-the-go access to the internet.
What we could have got: a slightly higher-tech version of the iPod that could also make calls.
It took Apple years to perfect the iPhone and some of the ideas they had along the way were, frankly, a bit rubbish.
Case in point: the iPod iPhone. Keen to explore all possible options, Steve Jobs tasked two teams to work on different user interfaces for Apple’s new device.
One team got the job of developing the iOS interface we know and love today. The other team, led by iPod designer Tony Fadell, got the less enviable job of trying to crowbar the iPod’s click wheel into the iPhone interface.
The first problem, obviously, is that the iPhone doesn’t have a click wheel. Instead, Fadell and his team had to build in a virtual click wheel. It took up half the screen, relegating the actual content people wanted to look at into the top half of the screen (an area about the size of an early Nokia screen).
The click wheel also made dialling numbers and typing pretty difficult, both of which are pretty core to the iPhone experience. Needless to say, the other team’s interface was chosen and the iPod iPhone remained a closely guarded secret… until recently.
What we got: the world’s first 32-bit console, home to some of the most iconic games of all time. It’s widely credited with making gaming as popular as it is today.
What we could have got: a SNES with a CD-ROM drive bolted to the bottom.
Yep, you read that right: the Playstation was almost a modified version of the SNES.
Back in the 80s, when Nintendo were kings of console gaming, Sony produced sound chips for the SNES. Nintendo were so impressed that they contracted Sony to work on a forthcoming CD-ROM drive for the SNES.
The project got as far as Sony producing a prototype and showing it off at CES 1991. Unfortunately, Nintendo had other ideas; soon after, they announced a partnership with Philips instead.
The reason for this apparently sudden change of heart was an ongoing dispute over royalties. The two eventually agreed a deal that allowed Sony to produce the SNES Playstation, although Sony shifted their focus to producing a 32-bit console instead.
That console, of course, changed gaming as we knew it and established Sony as the biggest force in gaming.
Meanwhile, Nintendo’s SNES CD-ROM attachment never materialised and the gross sum of their relationship with Phillips was a couple of terrible CD-i games. They’ve played second fiddle to Sony ever since.
It was widely assumed that all 200 SNES PlayStation prototypes had been destroyed until Philadelphia residents Terry and Dan Diebold found one in their loft.
The Actual X-Shaped Xbox
The original Xbox was a hulking beast, exhaling furiously as it span Halo.
It wasn’t always that way though. Back in 2000, Bill Gates unveiled a prototype that was actually shaped like an X, complete with a full metal finish.
It’s not clear if Microsoft ever planned to release this version of the Xbox or if it was just a prop for Gates to talk around, but it looks a lot cooler than what we ended up with. Maybe they’ll reuse the design for Project Scorpio.
Apple’s first prototype for the iPad dates back to 2002, a whole 5 years before the iPhone was launched.
Codenamed 35, the 2002 iPad was uncovered as part of the aforementioned legal battle with Samsung. With a huge screen and an incredibly thick chassis, it’s a lot different to the slim, sleek tablet we all know.
Of course, the world was a lot different back then. The iPhone was half a decade away and the tablet’s development was actually in response to Bill Gates unveiling Microsoft’s first tablet in 2000 (Bill Gates did a lot of product launches in 2000). This was despite Steve Jobs disliking tablets; he predicted Microsoft’s device would fail, describing it as being for “a bunch of rich guys who can afford their third computers”.
During the early stages of the Wii U’s development, they produced a prototype Gamepad by taping two Wiimotes to a retro-style tablet.
Funnily enough, that’s more or less what the Nintendo Switch is (albeit much sleeker); a tablet with two controllers attached to each side. Coincidence, or a case of extremely early planning?
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