GIF: Sonny Dickson (YouTube)

For every device that a company reveals and releases, there are probably 10 that never escape the R&D lab. Sonny Dickson, who has a solid track record of leaking things Apple doesn’t want the world to see, managed to get his hands on a working prototype of the Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone (or WALT, for short) which was a desktop phone packed with PDA functionality.

The WALT was first revealed at Macworld in Boston in 1993, the same year that Apple’s Newton PDA was released to the public. But unlike Apple’s doomed PDA, the WALT never actually made it into the hands of consumers, which was probably a good thing based on its performance in this hands-on video that Sonny shared on his YouTube channel.

Co-developed with telecom company Bell South before it became part of AT&T, the WALT ran on Mac OS 6.0.8 and a piece of Apple software called HyperCard (instead of the more familiar Finder UI) that facilitated its use as a sort of digital Rolodex. It could work as a telephone, a fax machine, an address book, a speakerphone, and it offered rudimentary online banking; all powered by a high-res, stylus-driven touchscreen. It even packed a hard drive and supported both VGA and SCSI connections so it could potentially be directly connected to other hardware.

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Unfortunately, unlike the responsiveness of your iPhone or iPad’s touchscreen, the WALT was very slow to respond to its tethered stylus. You could (attempt to) use it to navigate the UI or jot down notes, but the lag was problematic, and as Sonny demonstrates, it turns your handwriting into what looks like the crude scribbles of a child. Without a keypad, getting data into the WALT would have been a challenge, and that’s probably one of many reasons Apple killed it before its release.

[YouTube via Macrumors]

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