There has been a lot said about Apple’s development of the iPhone, and the history and inspiration behind the device – such as this notable 1983 concept of a “Telephone Mac.” One of the most notable examples of this is Apple’s lesser known desk phone known as the W.A.L.T. (Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone).
The W.A.L.T., which was announced at MacWorld 1993, was never released to the public, and only a very small handful of prototypes were ever constructed for the device. One of the few known samples of this was sold on eBay for $8,000 back in 2012. It was even prototyped in both “classic Mac” color and a somewhat more “business looking” dark gray color (white version pictured below).
While there are some key details known about the device, such as that it was designed in partnership with BellSouth and offered advanced features for its time, such as online banking access, a full touchscreen, fax and caller ID support, a built in address book, and even the ability to customize ringtones (it even featured Newton-like full handwriting support), a functioning version of the device has never, to my knowledge, been seen by “virgin eyes.”
We’ve obtained exclusive video footage showing the device in working order. The Mac System 6 powered device is fascinating to see in function, and although it seems primitive by today’s standards, it was certainly an impressive feat for 1993. The videos show many features of the device, including the handwriting recognition and address book, as well as the hardware controls.
While it doesn’t amount to a lot today, it’s still extremely interesting to see the device in action, and shows that Apple was thinking about improving the concept of the desk phone (albeit not the mobile phone at that point) for a very long time before the original iPhone finally made its public release.
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. It even included a built in hard drive instead of using firmware, adding to it’s Mac-esque qualities.
It’s also features what might be one of the best modern examples of a fully customized daughter board (a small extension board that interfaces between the touch screen and the remainder of the hardware).
The prototypes even included a very unusual manual, which not only called out the device as a prototype, but also included oddly basic instructions, such as “Do not use WALT near water” and “Do not drop WALT,” as well as an advisement to probably avoid stepping on the cords.
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.
Check out the footage yourself below!