Gadget geeks and Apple enthusiasts swarmed the company's King Street store Saturday morning for their first chance to buy the iPad, a lightweight touch-screen device that could push forward the digital reading trend.
While several dozen customers waited outside a crowded store, Apple employees showed off the $499 flat-screen pad's features -- how to turn a digital book's pages, how to enlarge a photo, even how to play notes on a digital keyboard.
The 10-inch screen can connect users to the Internet but it doesn't make phone calls -- its main distinction from the smaller iPhone device.
Apple store employees declined to comment on sales or speculate on whether they would run out of the devices. One Wall Street analyst predicted the company could sell 200,000 to 300,000 iPads over the weekend.
The mid-day buzz brewed up from an early morning cluster of customers who calmly had started lining up before dawn.
An hour before the store's opening, nearly two dozen clusters huddled in a line that had begun to stretch down Liberty Street toward the College of Charleston campus. Two police cars were parked outside to keep the groggy peace.
"If it's new and it's Apple, I have to have it," said 16-year-old Harrison Touby of Winston-Salem, N. C., who was first in line for the gadget.
Touby, who's visiting his sister at the College of Charleston, arrived at dark, abandoned King Street at 4:30 a.m.
A few customers back, Rob Jordan and his 15-year-old son, Preston, sat in green camping chairs in a quiet display of father-son bonding. The Charlotte pair said they wanted an iPad especially to watch movies on the go.
Rob Jordan admitted to waiting in line for Apple products before. When the iPhone was released, the line inside Charlotte's SouthPark mall snaked around stores, and employees routed the crowd through the building's service hallways.
"We're both sort of Mac geeks," Rob Jordan said.
Reach Katy Stech at 937-5549 or firstname.lastname@example.org.