Long Live The Newton

The Apple Newton , introduced in 1993, was one of the worlds first PDA’s and is the device that coined the term “PDA,” or, Personal Digital Assistant. And the Newton truly was an assistant. The way in which all data stored on the device was part of the system’s “soup,” as it was known, and could be accessed intelligently by many different applications made possible a level of integration not even approached by today’s handhelds. And despite notoriously bad handwriting recognition early on, the most recent units (NewtonOS 2.x devices) sport recognition unmatched by today’s handhelds and which lives on in Apple’s Mac OS X as Inkwell.

I’ve seen a number of pretty nifty things from the Newton world cross the radar in the past weeks and thought I would present them here for those interested. One such item is the Newtendo Entertainment System, a NES emulator for the Newton—great for revisiting those old classics in stunning 16-level greyscale. Another interesting development comes out of the recent World Wide Newton Conference held in Paris this past Sept. 4-5. There, Paul Guyot presented his Einstein Emulator, a system that will eventually allow the NewtonOS to run on top of a Unix operating system. Compelling.

Some older but still most notable efforts out there are also worth mentioning. Kallisys has developed an ATA driver for the Newton, allowing the use of storage other than hard-to-find, non-linear flash memory. There’s also a webserver. An MP3 player, too. A variety of ethernet cards are now supported. Even WiFi. And VNC. Another great app to emerge is an iTunes plug-in that allows iTunes music to be synced to the Newton as easily as though it were an iPod (currently the product page is off-line, here’s an archive.org link). It seems I could go on and on here, but I will end with a link to a Wired article from a couple of years ago that takes a look at the indefatigable Newton scene.

I never should have let my MessagePad 2000 or eMate 300 go. Arn over at MacRumors and I used to collect Newtons, actually. Our efforts there have sadly waned. I still have a MessagePad 100 and a MessagePad 130, anyway. Lamentably they spend most of their time on the shelf.

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