Koala Pad for the C64
courtesy Randy Byrnes

The Koala Pad is a graphics tablet which was produced for most of the early 8bit machines, including the Apple II, TRS-80 Color Computer, Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit family. Originally designed by Dr. David Thornburg as a low-cost drawing tool for schools, the Koala Pad was very popular with home users as well.

The pad itself was 4 inches square, mounted on a slightly inclined base with the back of the pad higher than the front. At the top, "behind" the pad, were two buttons. The pad hooked into the computer using analog joystick (or "paddle") inputs, which meant that it had fairly low resolution and tended to jostle the cursor as it was moved.

The tablet shipped with a simple graphics program, Koala Painter (Koala Paint on the Atari). One unique feature of the program was that it held two pictures in memory, allowing the user to flip from one to the other and copy and paste between the two. The buttons tended to be somewhat frustrating to use, as the user had to "reach around" the stylus to push the buttons in order to start or stop drawing. A similar tablet from Atari addressed this with a built-in button, which some enterprising users adapted for use with their Koala Pad.