Roger Fidler is program director for digital publishing at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri, where he coordinates digital publishing research projects and the Digital Publishing Alliance. In 1981, he began to write about digital publications and the possibility of a newspaper tablet. In 1991, he created the first prototype as a Freedom Forum Media Studies Fellow at Columbia University. And as he notes "... In 1981, I was design director for the Knight-Ridder team that developed Viewtron, the first videotex [online] service in the U.S. It was similar to AOL. In the beginning, customers connected to the videotex database via a 1200 Baud modem hooked to a standard phone line."
As Apple's iPad nears its launch, he graciously agreed to answer my questions:
For practical purposes, what are the differences between an e-reader, a tablet and a tablet computer?
E-readers are single-purpose mobile platforms designed mainly for downloading and reading digital books, periodicals and documents. They often are described as "green" alternatives to ink printed on paper. Currently, all incorporate gray-scale electronic paper display technologies. E-readers with full-color electronic paper displays are expected before the end of this year.