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.
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- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- In the TV version of The Hitchhikers 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 book with a folding screen instead of pages.
- Stargate Atlantis had ubiquitous tablets about the size of an iPad, but with better armor.
- 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.
- 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."
- Tablet computers. While they've been around for decades, it's only been since the introduction of the iPad and its competitors that they've come to prominence.
- Smartphones, which are essentially smaller versions with phone capability.