For all the hype about Apple's reportedly forthcoming tablet computer, there was a time when the company wanted nothing to do with the devices. That time lasted nearly 20 years, starting with this thing, the Pen Mac.

TechCrunch is running pictures of Apple's c. 1990 prototablet today. Not much more than an inch thick, supposedly, the device was a portable Mac that responded to stylus input. The design was ahead of its time: judging from the photo above, it might actually pass for an Amazon Kindle 19 years later. But then-CEO John Sculley killed the deal so the company could focus on the doomed Newton PDA. Short-sighted? Hardly; here's what resurrected Apple messiah/CEO Steve Jobs himself said about tablets in 2003:

We look at the tablet and we think it is going to fail.... Tablets appeal to rich guys with plenty of other PCs and devices already. And people accuse us of niche markets.

Tablets: They suck and are useless until the day Apple says they don't anymore.