Hefty. Ample. Zaftig. An iPod hit with an Engorgio Charm. Pick your adjective and go with it, because this honest-to-Ive iPad prototype was just plain big.

It looked like a chopped-off MacBook’s top half, but it probably wouldn’t have seemed out of place on Batman’s bedside table.

How did this early design concept (circa 2002-2004!) for an Apple tablet come to light? As Kelly relayed earlier, NetworkWorld’s Yoni Heisler did some clever digging into recently unsealed depositions in Apple v. Samsung. Lawyers for Samsung interviewed Apple’s design chief Jonathan Ive in December of 2011, and asked him to confirm that the photos introduced into evidence of the “035” prototype were legitimate, Apple-created artifacts. Ive testified that they were, and now that the testimony has been unsealed Heisler was able to find and publish black-and-white photos of the device.

BuzzFeed’s Matt Buchanan & Michael Phillips have now unearthed color versions of the prototype pictures; they highlight the device’s amputated-MacBook-screen affect even more strongly. In fact, the unit bears some resemblance to the Axiotron Modbook, which repurposed the plastic-case MacBook into a tablet form factor; minus the ports, of course, and probably somewhat lighter had it ever gone into production.

Seeing the prototype side by side with the produced iPad, it’s sobering to think about how long Apple’s designers and engineers worked toward refining, improving and slenderizing the tablet concept. Of course, before the iPad itself ever saw the light of day, the technologies and software involved snuck out the door in smaller form.

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