Artifact Details


Lectrice ebook reader prototype

Catalog Number



Physical object


1995 ca.


Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)

Place Manufactured

Palo Alto, Calif.


overall: 2 in x 10 1/2 in x 13 in


This object is the case for the tablet prototype (a linked object). A label on the bottom right front of the object reads "Lectrice" and "digital," and contains an open book image.


Fixed-application digital computer/eBook reader

Curator Notes

This is Lectrice, a very early prototype ebook reader, made long before a commercial market existed. It was the brainchild of Andrew Birrell of the Systems Research Center (SRC), later of Microsoft Research. It dates from the mid-to-late-90s and was part of several DEC projects in hand-held electronics that included SRC's Portable Jukebox (PJB), a prototype of which CHM already has, and WRL's Itsy, one of the first general purpose portable devices, which is described in WRL research reports.

The primary research paper describing Lectrice is here:

Aside from its novel purpose and specialized interface for reading books, Lectrice was the first device to properly deal with eye fatigue resulting from the lack of resolution of late 90s screens. Lectrice used gray-scale shading to "move" characters by minute amounts so that fonts appeared with proper proportional spacing, despite the crude dpi ratings of the screens.

Related Records

102729601 "Lectrice" prototype ebook reader