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Tablet computers in science-fiction
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(permanent link) added: 2012-04-28 17:50:25 sponsor: zarpaulus (last reply: 2013-01-13 08:18:43)

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In many science-fiction works, even those pre-dating the iPad by decades, the most common form of portable computer is a flat, rectangular slab held in one hand and operated with the other. Usually called a Data Pad or some similar name.


Comic Books
  • The omnicoms of the Legion of Super-Heroes comics are generally depicted as something midway between a smartphone and a tablet computer in size, with a keypad and screen. The ones the Legion uses have quite a few additional functions built in, such as environmental scanning capabilities.


  • The Mote In Gods Eye. The Imperial humans have pocket computers that can operate on their own as well as connecting with other computers. They can write on the computers with a stylus, like the Star Trek: The Original Series example.
  • The Culture novel Excession mentions some Culture citizens using devices of this nature called Tablets- iirc, the idea is that generally Culture citizens have something in their head called a neural lace, through which they can do everything, but more "off-the-grid" people won't have a lace and will just have one of these.
  • In Rainbows End, these are mostly considered obsolete, though they are still available for people who, for whatever reason, don't want or aren't ready for full-on wearables. Robert Gu starts with one of these after his Alzheimer's is cured, to try to ease his way into the modern world. It's actually so thin and flexible that it can be folded up like a piece of paper.

Live-Action Television
  • Star Trek has PADDs.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series featured the PADD's 23rd Century predecessor, a device usually referred to as the "electronic clipboard," usually given to Kirk by a Yeoman to sign with some sort of stylus, then handed back to the Yeoman. The PADD wouldn't be formally introduced until the 24th Century.
  • Averted pretty hard in Battlestar Galactica, which used laptops until a tablet computer (of a size and shape similar to an early 21st Century model) appeared in the 4th Season aboard the Demetrius. Usually the crew just passes around information on pieces of paper.
    • Caprica replaces these with digital computer paper. In the pilot, Zoe even uses a piece of digital paper to send a text message.
  • "Globals" in Earth: Final Conflict were exactly like Real Life smartphones... years before smart phones first appeared on the market. They were handheld digital computers combined with cutting edge cell phone technology.
  • Andromeda had flexis -datapads that looked like sheets of paper.
  • A deleted scene from the Firefly pilot "Serenity" showed Simon using a tablet computer to look up the name of the ship. It was evidently voice-activated.
  • In the TV version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy the Guide looks something like an Amazon Kindle - kind of a dedicated tablet computer which can only access the Guide.
    • The novel's version looks more like a large calculator with a hundred buttons and a four-inch square screen. Evidently pre-dating the touchscreen.
    • The Film version of the book appears to be a book with a folding screen instead of pages.

Tabletop Games

Video Games

Web Comics
  • Freefall has ubiquitous data pads that connect to the global comnet. On the rare occasion that people absolutely need something resembling paper they print out a sheet of plastic.
  • The Cyantian Chronicles "plates" are standard Cyantian tech. Used for everything from schoolwork to indexing subspace inventories to playing games.
  • Jix compared the iPad to her own species' tablets once. She wasn't particularly impressed.
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