Data Pad
Number One, pull up the IGN guide for level 4-7 of Angry Birds.

In many science-fiction works, even those pre-dating tablet computers 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. Like its spiritual companion, the communicator (AKA- the cellphone in your pocket), it's now completely defictionalized in the form of the tablet computer.


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    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. Though these are becoming defictionalized as well.
  • Fact Totems from Sinister Dexter, which are basically smartphones which give data on targets to gun sharks. Their use in the strip actually came a good decade before smartphones came to prominence.
  • In Albedo: Erma Felna EDF everyone in the EDF has a "hand computer" that connects them to the sentient and omnipresent Net. It's got a camera, is about 10 x 12 cm, made of titanium, and the fleet version can control a ship from any data port on board.

  • In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dave and Frank use devices called "IBM Tele Pads" to watch themselves being interviewed by The BBC. They only seem to operate in portrait mode and have ten channel buttons along the bottom of the screen.
  • Avatar had transparent data pads onto which the Earth people could drag info from their computer screens.
  • Star Wars has data pads, though they're mostly featured in the Expanded Universe.
  • 20 Minutes into the Future, everyone in the Wim Wenders' film trilogy Until the End of the World seems to carry around a wallet-sized personal computer.
  • In Minority Report, a variant involving transparent data pads exists. They can be used to transfer data from a stationary computer, to view that data while mobile, and transfer it back later.

  • The Culture novel Excession mentions some Culture citizens using devices of this nature called Tablets — 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.
  • Subtle in the web-novel Domina. Pads are mentioned in the same way you'd mention a paper memo pad, but then people are described as "scrolling down" or "tapping his way through," making it more obvious that they are this trope.
  • In the Quadrail Series multimedia "readers" have replaced most media platforms, with movies, music, and books being read off of small data cards or chips that are loaded into it.
  • The Mote in God's 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.
  • 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.
  • Desks in Ender's Game are most likely tablets (they're certainly portrayed thus in the film). Apparently, one can even write code in them, something that is not very comfortable with Real Life tablets.
  • In the Old Man's War universe, PDAs are omnipresent among the humans, with the exception of the Colonial Defense Force soldiers, who instead have a BrainPal inside their heads. Both the PDAs and BrainPals are used for pretty much everything, and a couple of the books show how difficult it can be to adjust when they are unable to use them.
  • In Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, the crew of the Rockhopper use tablet PCs, but with the added twist in that they are flexible and can be recharged via the piezoelectric effect by flexing them back and forth. When the Rockhopper is stranded in interstellar space, it becomes a minor plot point to find a way to replace the aging tablets, along with all the other failing technology.

    Live Action TV 
  • Andromeda had flexis—datapads that looked like sheets of paper.
  • 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 smartphones first appeared on the market. They were handheld digital computers combined with cutting edge cellphone technology.
  • 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. He is briefly seen interacting with a device that looks a bit like a laptop computer turned on its side, with the keyboard to the left of the portrait-oriented screen, in "War Stories".
  • 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 4-inch-square screen, evidently pre-dating the touchscreen.
    • The film version of the Guide appears to be a closer example of this trope: styled to look like a book, but with a seamless folding screen instead of pages.
  • Stargate Atlantis had ubiquitous tablets about the size of an iPad, but with better armor. They could also interface with alien technology. In Stargate SG-1, even Ba'al knows how to use one, although he did spend a few years on Earth.
  • Star Trek has PADDs (Personal Access Display Devices). See Everything Is an iPod in the Future for further discussion about them.
  • 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.
  • The pilot episode of Babylon 5 had one character's credentials presented in the form of a flexible display with a scrollable screen. In the show proper, they'd use bulky looking slate tablets instead, but for the most part the characters just used the station's multitude of wall or console mounted computer screens. Incidentally, the show also featured Data Crystals, which were used identically to USB thumbdrives, which would hit the market a year or so after the show ended its run.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Traveller has "hand computers".
  • The Imperial Guard of Warhammer 40,000 make use of "dataslates", assuming the author doesn't have them use feather quills and parchment.
    • They seem to appear most often in the Ciaphas Cain series, Jurgen keeps his Porn Stash on a collection of them.
    • A few items in the Dark Heresy RPG spinoff. Some are used only for text and generally about as cheap as paper notebooks (or cheaper on some worlds), simply buying a new one instead of writing over old data. Dataslates with more functionality are rarer, but just as cheap.
  • In Rocket Age they are usually found in ancient ruins, datapads usually hold information such as film footage, or ancient texts.

    Video Games 
  • You can find and read several of these in all Deus Ex games, which refer to them as "datacubes".
  • These are ubiquitous appliances in the Mass Effect universe, though mainly for transfer of data between individuals. Personal computers takes form of wrist-mounted Omnitools.
  • The Player Character's PDA from the System Shock games.
  • The Captain's PDA in Alien Legacy.
  • The PDAs in Doom 3 work just like real life personal tablets, except for them also acting as security passes for clearance-locked doors within the Mars City compound. Even then, it's not absurd for that to be arranged in the mid-New Tens with a dedicated app and Bluetooth connections.
  • A translucent data pad is used in Mr. Robot as an in-game main menu, and as your window into cyberspace while ghost-hacking.
  • Jake Quinlan's W.A.C. (Wireless Access Console) in Ripper
  • Scattered all over the Being One games as Apocalyptic Logs.
  • The video tablets left behind by the science team in Schizm: Mysterious Journey
  • Lilah Kerlins uses one in Obsidian, although the outer cover makes it look more like a laptop.
  • In 2090 AD during Dark Fall: Lights Out, The crew of the D.E.O.S. research station use these, and they apparently have a lot, using some as digital picture frames, others as personal journals, and one crew member even goes to the trouble of erasing some of the cookbook data in one, to write in it while cooking for a party.
  • The RobCo Personal Information Processor or PIP-Boy 2000 from Fallout and Fallout 2. It's boxy with a small 5 x 3 inch screen with green print and colors but it's highly advance as it records the user's health, maps wide swaths via satellites, reading and recording messages and videos, and even playing simple games. However, by Fallout 3 on, they have become more akin to wrist-mounted computers, for reasons that aren't entirely explained.

  • Angels 2200: Two different versions are shown: A security guard accesses the ship's message system with one and the pilots carry something called "Jmlad" that functions as a personal organizer and storage device.
  • The Cyantian Chronicles "plates" are standard Cyantian tech. Used for everything from schoolwork to indexing subspace inventories to playing games.
  • 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 referred to as "smart paper." This paper can alert the user with vibrations or a ringtone, though apparently the default setting is to fold itself into origami.
  • Jix compared the iPad to her own species' tablets once. She wasn't particularly impressed.
  • Quentyn Quinn, Space Ranger stumbles across some kind of plot when he gets his datapad mixed up with the Gestaltian Envoy's one.
  • As common as paper in Schlock Mercenary, but referred to as "Handbrains."
  • When they're not using their brain implants characters in Quantum Vibe often use touchscreens that can be stretched from the size of a smartphone into a very large model tablet.
  • Everyone in the space arc of Arthur, King of Time and Space has one. Of course, after 2010, the characters in the contemporary arc have them as well.

    Real Life 
  • Tablet computers. While they've been around for decades, it's only been since the introduction of the Palm Pilot in 1994 that the device became practical and reliable enough to be viable.
  • Smartphones, which are essentially smaller versions with phone capability.
  • Personal Digital Assistants (PDA), which were pocket-sized tablets that gradually disappeared from the market around the same time smartphones started becoming more common. Essentially smartphones without the phone, or small tablets. The iPod Touch is a modern descendant of these.
  • Phablets, (phone + tablet), larger than a smartphone, smaller than a tablet, and purportedly have the function of both (which is debatable, it depends on which model you are talking about).