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New book reveals Apple prototypes of the 1980s

A new book sheds light on some Apple products that never were.

Joe Svetlik
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You may be pretty pleased with your iPad and iPhone, but look at what we could've had. These designs, first reported by Designboom, are prototype Apple products that never saw the light of day. They've been collected for the first time in a book by Hartmut Esslinger, a designer who worked at Sony and Louis Vuitton before starting at Apple in 1982.

Esslinger knocked up some of the most iconic Apple products of the 1980s, but here we can see the ones that never made it to the shop shelves. There's an Apple desk phone with a screen. A small Mac desktop. And even a tablet concept. Talk about ahead of his time.

In 1982, Apple was in crisis. Company CEO Michael Scott had different business divisions for each product line, each with its own head of design. That meant Apple devices didn't look anything like each other. It was a 28-year-old Steve Jobs who brought in Esslinger to create a design language which would inform how Apple's products looked.

Sony was a big inspiration to Jobs, with one idea being 'what would Sony do if it built computers?' Jobs "felt that Sony's simple cool design language should be a good benchmark, and Sony was the current pacesetter in making high-tech consumer products smarter, smaller and more portable," Esslinger writes. (In its recent trial with Samsung, Apple revealed some prototypes that drew inspiration from Sony products, too.)

Instead of aping Sony, Esslinger pioneered the 'snow white' design language that soon became Apple's staple. And the rest, as they say, is history. Esslinger's book is called Design Forward, and is out now for around £24.

What do you think of these early designs? Would you like to see any of them made real? And how is Apple faring in the era after Steve Jobs? Let me know what you think in the comments, or on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Hartmut Esslinger

"It's the 1980s, they want their phone back"
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An iPad nearly 30 years early
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A Sony-style desktop
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Mac Mini, anyone?
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The Lisa Workstation
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And a MacBook

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