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2011/46/1 Tablet computer and accessories, System 3125, plastic / metal / electronic components, made by NCR Corporation, Germany, 1991. Click to enlarge.

System 3125 tablet computer

The NCR System 3125 is a sophisticated tablet, or pen-based portable computer. That is it does not use a keyboard or mouse for the input and retrieval of data. All the computer's programs are accessed by the use of a 'pen' - a stylus that is designed to interact with the surface of the screen and either input text which is read by the computer and interpreted as commands, or activate virtual buttons on the screen to open, access, save, edit and close programs.

Though this technology was not new in 1991, the NCR System 3125 was a much more powerful computer than other tablets on the market at the time. Its main competitor, the Grid System's Gridpad was inexpensive in comparison, but was not as sophisticated. Whereas the Gridpad was designed for field workers who needed to enter information into electronic pro-formas, the System 3125 could power programs that were up until then only available on desk-top systems - such as spread-sheets and graphs.

At the time the that System 3125 was released on to the market, tablet computers were still something of a specialist tool. They were expensive, or they were quite limited in their computing power. The mainstream computer market did not catch onto the concept in any significant way. Other companies also developed notebook computers - Sharp and Apple chief among them - but they too did not have any large success. The popularity and accelerated advance in technology of the mobile telephone in recent years has changed the way people use mobile technology, and thus the concept of the tablet computer has become widely accepted. Apple's latest tablet computer - the iPad - has quickly become a standard piece of personal electronic equipment for both professional and leisure use. The concept though is not new.

Damian McDonald
May 2011


Object No.


Object Statement

Tablet computer and accessories, System 3125, plastic / metal / electronic components, made by NCR Corporation, Germany, 1991

Physical Description

Tablet computer with an LCD screen and a moulded beige-coloured plastic surround. The unit sits flat with the screen facing upwards for use and can be hand-held in the same position. The power button is situated on the top right corner of the unit, with cable ports on the left hand side. The tablet is accompanied by a stylus, connector adaptor, transformer, electrical cord and protective case.



The tablet computer was designed and manufactured by the NCR Corporation, Germany, 1991.

The company began in 1884 as the National Cash Register Company, a cash register manufacturer in Dayton, Ohio, U.S.A. The company was successful, as retailers quickly realised that profits could be accurately recorded, and cash theft by staff greatly reduced once they introduced cash registers to their businesses. NCR neared bankruptcy in the early 1930s due to the Great Depression, but managed to stay afloat, and in 1952 the company secured a defence contract for designing bombing navigation computers - and this started NCR's computer division. NCR also entered the commercial computer market, but the company had much more success in the manufacturing and marketing of automated teller machines (ATMs). This is still a major component of NCR's core business. The NCR System 3125 tablet computer was brought onto the market in 1991. It was a high-end notepad computer, designed for the white-collar market, combining the convenience of a highly portable system, with the power of a small PC to manipulate sophisticated data. It used the Intel's i386 SL microprocessor.



This NCR System 3125 tablet commuter was purchased by the Australian branch of the North American Electronic Book Technologies company for marketing staff to demonstrate software that the company had developed which could be used on a System 3125 or similar product. As well as running Windows software for the staff to use, a demonstration package of an Online Technical Manual was installed - in this case a proto-type electronic technical manual for an American made helicopter - so sales staff could show empirically how their product worked. The proto-type program used SGML - a precursor to the now ubiquitous HTML.

The tablet was used between 1995 and 1997. The Australian branch of the company has since folded, and the donor salvaged this object noting its good condition and importance in the history of electronic notebook computers. It was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 2011.


Credit Line

Gift of Peter Finch, 2011

Acquisition Date

19 July 2011

Cite this Object


System 3125 tablet computer 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 16 April 2021, <https://ma.as/416483>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/416483 |title=System 3125 tablet computer |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=16 April 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}