WALT – Crude 1993 Apple Prototype of a Mac-Based Desktop Phone

Sonny Dickson has a video of a strange 1993 Apple prototype in action:

Manufactured largely from PowerBook 100 parts, all framed with a specialized version of Mac OS Classic that is customized with WALT bootup text and specific WALT related language. […]

The way I’ve come to think about the W.A.L.T. is as a classic Mac blended with a Newton and a desk phone — it features a full array of the typical interface ports of its time, featuring SCSI, VGA out, and external audio. What’s even more interesting is that it ran HyperCard instead of Apple’s better known Finder interface.

In spirit it’s certainly more Newton-like than Mac-like, but technologically it’s clearly just a PowerBook 100 running a customized version of System 6 and the software is all just HyperCard.

Assuming the 1993 date for this prototype is correct, it’s a sign of Apple’s early 90’s dysfunction that this turd was produced and shown in public, given that the actual Newton shipped in 1993. It feels like something someone in the Mac division ordered up to show that the Newton shouldn’t even be made because the Mac could do everything the Newton could do. But it obviously couldn’t. Everything is painfully slow on this WALT prototype, and stylus input is a joke — the stylus is just directing the Mac’s mouse pointer around the screen, slowly. (System 7 shipped in 1991, so it’s also telling that this prototype purportedly from 1993 was running System 6 — System 6 was a bit closer to the metal and thus faster.) The whole UI seems crude compared to the Newton’s elegance.

Still — fascinating that something like this can still boot and run. And I presume from the Orlando-area map on the startup screen that the name “WALT” was homage to Walt Disney, and that “Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone” was just a (terrible) backronym.

Thursday, 11 April 2019