First graphic tablet developed

September 1963
First graphic tablet developed

A graphic tablet is a device that allows the input of freehand drawings into computers. The first graphic tablet was the RAND Tablet, developed by M.R. Davis and T.D. Ellis of The RAND Corporation.

The RAND Tablet used a pen-like stylus to sense electrical pulses from a fine grid of conductors. By moving the pen around the grid, the user could enter lines and points.

In August 1964, Davis and Ellis published their memorandum, "The RAND Tablet: A Machine Graphical Communication Device". This paper indicated that the device had been in use since September 1963:

The Memorandum describes a low-cost, two-dimensional graphic input tablet and stylus developed at The RAND Corporation for conducting research on man-machine graphical communications. The tablet is a printer-circuit screen complete with printed-circuit capacitive-coupled encoders with only 40 external connections. The writing surface is a 10"—10" area with a resolution of 100 lines per inch in both x and y. Thus, it is capable of digitizing >106 discrete locations with excellent linearity, allowing the user to "write" in a natural manner. The system does not require a computer-controlled scanning system to locate and track the stylus. Several institutions have recently installed copies of the tablet in research environments. It has been in use at RAND since September 1963.

The original RAND Tablet cost $18,000.

Related information:


  • RAND Tablet prototype
    Credit: RAND Corporation Archives





First graphic tablet developed

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