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The headline of a Business Insider article from 2016, puts it perfectly:

“Microsoft’s very first Surface was this largely forgotten coffee table sized-tablet that Bill Gates loved”

The original Surface concept, ahead of its time, was for a supersized, infrared-powered touch screen for public places that multiple people could use at once. The Surface 1.0’s single best feature was the ability for apps to recognize objects placed on the screen — in one demo, Microsoft showed off using an ordinary paintbrush to “paint.”