MacBook users today who wish their notebooks had touchscreens are probably repeatedly told that Apple just doesn’t do touchscreens on a Mac. But more than three decades ago, it almost did. Of course, the technology back then meant it would be a resistive touch screen that required a stylus, ironically, but it was still a huge change of direction for Apple. Sadly, the W.A.L.T., short for “Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone”, never came to be. Fortunately, now we a video of a working prototype that reveals Apple’s almost prophetic vision.
The 1983 Apple W.A.L.T. and the 2018 AirPower wireless charging mat have two things in common. Both were revealed to the public with much hype and interest. Both never became actual products. While the AirPower’s cancellation still remains a mystery, the W.A.L.T. may have just been too far ahead of its time.
The device was pretty much a mashup for a Mac, an Apple Newton, and a telephone. It featured fax, online banking, caller ID, a stylus-driven touch screen, an address book, and customizable ringtones. These are things we take for granted but, back in 1983 even up to 1993, that was nothing short of revolutionary.
The software that ran on it was equally interesting. It ran a modified System 6 from the Mac OS Classic family and used HyperCard as its default UI. It also featured handwriting recognition years ahead of the industry. This was, pretty much, the precursor of the iPhone.
Sadly, both the hardware and the software may have just been too novel to be a profitable product. But while that idea may have been shelved even before products were actually made, it does demonstrate a company that wasn’t afraid to take its desktop operating system into unknown territory. Something fans may hope macOS would bravely go someday as well.