Let's start at the beginning of the beginning. Manufacturers recognized that a portable device for simple tasks like browsing the Internet and checking email would please the people.
Enter the Netbook. These miniature-size laptops didn't pack a big performance punch, but they were cheap and compact. Needless to say, the ultra-affordable, ultrasmall laptop craze didn't last very long.
The iPad is the Marilyn Monroe of tablets. Before it stunned the world with its sleek design, the tablet scene looked rather homely.
The JooJoo tablet, pictured next to an iPhone, was an OG slate that ran its own custom OS. Released shortly before both the Apple tablet and the explosion of Android-powered devices, let's just say it didn't stand a chance.
An onscreen keyboard is now standard on tablets, but at first it was a rare adjustment. "Will typing on a screen replicate the effectiveness of a real keyboard?", I'm assuming our dutiful CNET editors asked.
While some users have adjusted, tablet lineups like the Microsoft Surface and Asus Transformer offer proprietary keyboard accessories for traditionalists. Accessory manufacturers also make supplemental Bluetooth keys for those who prefer a more tactile approach to typing.
Sure, the Apple iPad impressed with a hearty app store and swift performance worth splurging on, but the Apple slate stays relevant five years later, thanks to its consistent attention to a slim and sleek aesthetic.
Android tablets offer a more customizable OS and a different visual experience than iOS. Though the Google platform once trailed behind Apple in available apps, the GooglePlay store was quick to give the App Store a runs for its money.
In an obvious turn of events, Windows tablets run Windows. For productivity-geared individuals, these tablets are portable godsends. The latest models run Windows 10, however Microsoft originally tried to make a tablet-friendly variation, called Windows RT. (We don't talk about that anymore, though.)
The Dell Streak debuted with a 5-inch screen and a design less than 0.5-inch thick. These days, that's what we call a phablet.
The line between tablet and smartphone can get blurry, with phone screens these days stretching as big as 6 inches. Anything 7 inches and above is considered more of a tablet, as models tend to range between 7 and 13 inches, though some might still boast LTE capabilities.
The Samsung Galaxy is a wide and wild group of gadgets that include a long lineage of tablets. Known for consistently churning out a new series every couple of months, Samsung has released dozens of slates since 2010.
Archos was the first to offer an Android tablet that was priced under $200. This trend in tablets still exists, with the category of budget Android models consistently emerging with new members.
Budget tablets weren't always worth picking up. Like many tablet forebearers, they were plagued by performance issues, making it easy for them to be made obsolete as soon as the next big thing came out.
What's next for tablets? We'll have to wait and see, but there are a few safe bets.
Mobile processors are becoming faster and more powerful, so I expect improvements in performance capabilities. Tablets are also differentiating themselves with fancy features, so keep an eye out on what will make your next (or first) slate unique.
Better camera quality should be in the pipeline, due to the popularity of selfies, video conferencing, and people who uninhibitedly take tablet photos in public. However, considering the shoddy quality of most rear cameras, that feature is undoubtedly a low priority for most manufacturers.
If tablets get any thinner, they'll be holograms. Actually, that's probably where tablet design will eventually lead to, but, until then, I'd happily settle for a rear camera that makes busting out a tablet in public worth the embarrassment.