Mac Musings

24 Years Ago: Apple's First Phone Never Made It to Market

Daniel Knight - 2007.07.19

If you've been on the Mac Web the past few days, you must have seen Fudder's article about "Apple's first iPhone" - or at least stories about it or links to it. The mock-up (below) was created by Frog Design and bears more than a passing resemblance to the Apple IIc.

1983 Apple phone prototype
1983 mock-up of an Apple telephone.

This was 1983. Before the Macintosh. Well before the Newton. When the Lisa was a US$10,000 computer. Yet the Apple Phone looks like it has a graphical user interface with a touchscreen, much as seen in the Newton 10 years later.

There's not a lot said about this phone, but from it looks like it has a built-in checkbook program. Whether this was just a check register or was intended to allow users to use an early form of online checking is a mystery, but it is intriguing. I wonder if it had an address book as well, which would allow users to scroll through a phone list, click with the stylus, and place a phone call.

It's amazing how far we've come in 25 years. Phones that plug into a wall jack and handsets wired to the phone are so 20th century, and we can't imagine a mobile phone today without a screen - although few have touch screens.

Steve Jobs still worked at Apple when this project was underway. It only took technology 25 years to move from the Apple Phone design to the iPhone, which gives us a color display, doesn't need a stylus, lets us watch video and listen to music, connects to the Internet, takes photos, and functions as a mobile phone as well.

As the author of Ecclesiastes said thousands of years ago, there's nothing new under the sun.

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