Meet the Canon Cat, the forgotten 1987 alternate-reality Mac

An article about the Canon Cat, a machine created by Jef Raskin who, after leaving Apple (and his former creation, the Macintosh), created the Cat. It was sold by Canon and featured an interface that was suppose to be for efficient word processing. From the article:

Once the project came into Steve Jobs’ orbit, the Mac that was launched was a considerably different machine than what Raskin had intended. And by then, he had already left Apple. However, he never gave up on producing an “information appliance” that embodied what he called a humane interface. He got his chance in 1987 with the Canon Cat, a $1,495 “work processor” marketed as “the brainchild of the man who originated The Macintosh Computer.” The Cat had a 9″ monochrome display like the first Mac but with an industrial design straight off the bridge of the original Star Trek’s Enterprise. Within the device lived a user interface optimized focused on getting work done—and even though the Cat was a short-lived disappointment at the time, it remains fascinating in this age of technology-driven distraction.


I’ve always found the Cat fascinating. What is even more fascinating is how different it is from what the Mac, and eventually all PCs, turned out to be. It seems to me we have somewhat come full circle with smartphones and tablets; they seem to embody much the same approach. They have a primary task with lots of other abilities available when needed.
The Wikipedia article doesn’t say a lot about the Cat, but does have some interesting links.

EDIT: And here is a pic:


hmmm, it appears there is an emulator available.

I’ve not downloaded or tried it yet, but looks interesting.


Apparently, the Cat had its roots in a plug-in card for the Apple II; see


Here’s a picture of an Apple II used (and modified) by Raskin, running the plug-in card mentioned by @rwiker:

Note at the sides of the space bar the two “leap” keys, which Raskin favored over the mouse.


I REALLY wanted a Canon Cat when I read about it in Byte Magazine … but at the time I didn’t have a spare $1500 laying around.