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The idea of tablet computing is generally credited to Alan Kay of Xerox, who sketched out the idea in 1971. The first widely-sold tablet computer was Apple Computer's Newton, which was not a commercial success. Technological advances in battery life, display resolution, handwriting recognition software, memory, and wireless Internet access have since made tablets a viable computing option.
Today, the most common type of tablet is the slate style, like Apple's iPad, Microsoft's Surface or Amazon's Kindle Fire. External keyboards are available for most slate-style tablets and some keyboards also function as docking stations for the devices.
Other styles of tablets include:
- Convertible tablets - typically have a display that rotates 180 degrees and can be folded to close, screen up, over an integrated hardware keyboard. Convertible models may allow user input through a variety of methods in addition to the hardware keyboard, including natural handwriting with a stylus or digital pen and typing through a screen-based software keyboard.
- Hybrid tablets - sometimes referred to as convertible or hybrid notebooks. A hybrid is like a regular notebook but has a removable display that functions independently as a slate.
- Rugged tablets - a slate-like model that is designed to withstand rough handling and extreme conditions. Rugged tablets are usually encased in a thick protective shell and have shock-protected hard drives.