The Canon Cat: The Writing Information Appliance

Update: Please check out and join the "Canon Cat" Google Group -- that's where the Canon Cat activists meet these days.

The Canon Cat is a word processing appliance which was sold by Canon in 1987. It was designed by Information Appliance, Inc.

The Cat has a remarkably different user interface. It was a true information appliance which allows you to just type. It packs a surprising amount of power in a small set of tools and commands.

This site collects some information on the Canon Cat. We hope to give people a feeling of how the Cat works. Every user interface enthusiast should know about the Cat and have a feel of the differently great world of the Cat.

If you have additional material that we could add here, please send e-mail to and we'll put it up here. You can also add your comments using the commentary feature on each page.

Latest Updates

6.8.2004 The Canon Cat: The Writing Information Appliance
6.8.2004 Canon Cat links Canon Cat Resources
7.6.2004 Converting the Cat to run on 240V mains voltage Canon Cat Internals
3.1.2002 Online Help Screens from the Cat Canon Cat User Interface
3.1.2002 The Forth inside the Canon Cat Canon Cat Internals

Articles by Category

Canon Cat Internals

Converting the Cat to run on 240V mains voltage (7.6.2004)
Instructions on how to convert a Cat to run on 240VAC mains voltage.

The Forth inside the Canon Cat (3.1.2002)
Canon Cat is programmed with the Forth language. See what you can do.

How to enable the FORTH interpreter (3.1.2002)
The definitive instructions of going Forth on a Cat, tested on a living Cat.

Easter Eggs in the Canon Cat (24.6.2001)
See the funky authors page...

Canon Cat Resources

Canon Cat links (6.8.2004)
There is some information available about the Canon cat on the net.

Canon Cat User Interface

Online Help Screens from the Cat (3.1.2002)
The on-screen help pages of the Canon Cat

Screen Shots (24.6.2001)
What does the screen look like and how does it work?

Why the Cat is so Great?


I have been interested in user interfaces for a long time. Different styles of user interaction should be more actively experimented with, unless we wish to live on desktop-window-icon-click jail forever.

The Canon Cat originally built by the great minds (e.g. Jef Raskin et al) at Information Appliance, Inc is one great example of doing different things.

It is really astonishing that the Cat (which sold about 20.000 during 6 months in 1987) became a real product. Most of the time, new different solutions die before they get the chance to be tested in real life.

Jef Raskin, who was behind the Canon Cat, also created Apple's Macintosh computer, at a time when 80 column displays were the high-end of computing. Think about it.

I read about the Canon Cat in several user interface articles and books (including Jef Raskin's The Humane Interface). The descriptions really intrigued me so I bought a 'Cat from Ebay. It really works in a different way. The hardware feels a bit 1980's, but the ideology is still from the future.

Now that we're moving towards a new kind of computing platform, PDAs and other small-sized mobile devices, we have a chance of doing things differently. Let's go and do it!


Here's a quick picture of the Canon Cat. Notice the two leap keys under the space bar.

Updated 6.8.2004. 15733 hits. Since 2001. Hosted by