: Retro-Tech Review: The iPhone's Great-Granddaddy



AMGoff
09-23-08, 12:08 AM
Well it only took me 11 years to get one and a trip out to Gettysburg... but I finally got myself the "Cadillac" of handheld computers - a Newton!

For those who aren't familiar... The Apple MessagePads were a line of handheld computers developed and sold by the computer maker back in the 1990s. The original MessagePad was introduced in August 1993 and the line went through a number of different revisions and models culminating in the MessagePad 2000 series which came to market in March 1997. The Newton is credited for creating the entire Palmtop/PDA market and it's pioneering efforts paved the way for all sorts of devices to follow - Palms, PocketPCs, BlackBerries, even the iPhone. Early Newtons were rushed to market before they could be perfected and didn't quite live up to all their hype - the combination of the relatively anemic 20MHz ARM processor, little storage, and the quirky Newton OS v1.x left much to be desired.. especially lackluster handwriting recognition. Because of this, initial market reception was poor and the Newton became a running punch-line for the Doonesbury comic strips and even made it into an episode of the Simpsons...
http://static.seekingalpha.com/wp-content/seekingalpha/images/db930827.gif
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/9c/Newton_eat_up_martha.jpg

However, Apple finally nailed down the handwriting recognition when it released the Newton OS 2.x with the MP130 and addressed the performance issue when they released the MP2000 series with its 162MHz StrongARM processor and several megabytes of internal storage.

It provides for all of one's personal information management, ie - names and full contact information, dates and calendars, to-do lists and reminders, etc. through an easy and intuitive interface by using pen gestures and the surprisingly accurate natural handwriting recognition - and you don't have to learn and use any weird letter/symbols such as Palm's Graffiti system... Simply write normally in print or cursive and the Newton will not only recognize it, but will learn the way you write as you use it.

The Newton also provides an "intelligent" Assist feature to help users easily accomplish tasks, for example - A user touches the "Assist" button and a dialogue appears in which he writes "Lunch with John the day after tomorrow." The Newton will then look through the address book to find John, then go into the calender two days from now, create a new entry with John's contact info for Noon (since Lunch is usually around Noon), and automatically set a reminder for the appointment... I don't care what year we're in now - that's still frickin' cool!

But the Newton also goes well beyond basic PDA functions. It also provides internet access, email access, fax sending and receiving, word processing, spreadsheets, voice recording, games, book readers - which can be read verbally with text to speech, as well as any other third-party program one wishes to install. Despite being discontinued 10 years ago, the Newton user-community is still going and continues to develop software and device drivers to provide the Newton all sorts of extra functionality that weren't even around when it was on the market... Things like MP3 playback, instant messaging, SMS messaging, VNC clients, as well as GPS, WIFI, Bluetooth, even cellular GSM and 3G connectivity!

So when I came across this one, I couldn't pass it up... especially because this happened to be an extremely rare find. Not only did it come with the external keyboard, a 4MB & 20MB flash card, a combination ethernet + modem pc card, a wireless pc card, every cable and adapter available, and two cases - a full-sized travel case and a leather protective case... but what made it really rare was that it also came with the original box and packaging, all of the original disks (for Mac and Windows), all of the original manuals, documentation, & third party offers (including a 6-month free subscription to PenComputing magazine - sweet! lol), even the original invoice from 1997 for... wait for it... $1100!

Best of all... the guy was only asking $60 for it and I talked him down to $50 - which is all the more amazing since these go for $80-100 on eBay by themselves and I've seen them go for anywhere between $150-300 when one actually shows up with some of the original materials and some accessories... But I don't think I've ever seen one like quite like this.

Yeah... I'm a geek - I've come to terms with this a long time ago! The wife on the other hand... that's an entirely different story :hide:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3113/2879526518_b99fe5701a.jpg?v=0

ejguillot
09-23-08, 01:41 AM
COOL! :thumbsup: That's a vintage keeper. Watch out for the backlight failing.

Playdrv4me
09-23-08, 03:51 AM
Actually, despite the obvious brand difference... the Bellsouth/IBM Simon would probably be a better approximation of the iPhone's "grandpa", since it was technically the very first PDA and Phone all in one combination with a touch-screen ever sold in the U.S. It even had a fully functional WIRELESS fax machine built in.

http://www.gare.co.uk/technology_watch/images/mobile6.gif

To make matters even more ironic... BellSouth eventually became no other than ATT... The only U.S. wireless provider authorized to carry the iPhone.

Aron9000
09-23-08, 05:40 AM
My 91 Cadillac Brougham came with an aftermarket car phone installed on the driveshaft hump between the front seats. It powers up, but it can't get a signal, but it still looks cool.

MauiV
09-23-08, 07:00 AM
A guy on one of the local boards works at the Apple store and was amazed when someone brought a Newton in the other day for a software update.

Jesda
09-23-08, 12:05 PM
I've had a Newton 110, 120, and 2000 (upgraded to 2100). I also had a CDPD wireless internet card for the 2000. I saved my Newton 2000 owners manual as a souvenir.

Cliff8928
09-23-08, 01:50 PM
Nice.. I was almost going to get one of those before I got the iPhone. I probably still would get a MP2100.

Jesda
09-23-08, 01:57 PM
Trying to remember the apps I had on the Newton...

I often played Solitaire and that game where you move the pegs around. Also, I had a dialup program to log on to BBSes with the 2400 baud serial port modem. I never did find a driver for my Megahertz 14.4 PCMCIA card.

I -think- I had an IRC client, but it was crude and crashy. The TCP stack I installed worked intermittently, but it did work. I don't know if a graphical web browser was ever released. Back in the day, Newton was the #1 PDA and software was abundant.

I~LUV~Caddys8792
09-24-08, 11:58 AM
I'm confused...the Newton seems to be from what...1997?

Cliff8928
09-24-08, 01:56 PM
Ya, Newton only lasted until 2/98.

Jesda
09-24-08, 02:28 PM
Newton went from 93 to 98, officially. I never did own an Apple eMate. Almost bought one once. I think Sony made a Newton OS device?

dkozloski
09-24-08, 03:06 PM
Newton went from 93 to 98, officially. I never did own an Apple eMate. Almost bought one once. I think Sony made a Newton OS device?
I've got about a dozen EMates. Brilliantly conceived and poorly executed.

AMGoff
09-24-08, 03:53 PM
I'm confused...the Newton seems to be from what...1997?

You were all of what - 10 years old? Lol... The first Newton came out in the summer of 1993, but this particular model, the 2000 came out in March of '97 (at a princely MSRP of $1K), along with the eMate 300 which came in a clamshell/laptop form factor and was geared towards the education market (see pic below). The Newton received one last minor update in November '97 with the MP2100 (essentially a 2000 with more internal memory).

The 2000, 2100, and eMate were all officially discontinued on February 27, 1998 after the board ousted Gil Amelio and El Jobso returned to the big office.

The eMate 300:
http://www.everymac.com/images/cpu_pictures/apple_emate_300.jpg


Newton went from 93 to 98, officially. I never did own an Apple eMate. Almost bought one once. I think Sony made a Newton OS device?

I never actually owned an eMate, but I had the opportunity to use one for a while back in '97-99. We ended up receiving something like 12 of them as part of a grant package for the kids to use down at our school, along with a cart and an Apple Personal LaserWriter. They were nice little machines... they weren't particularly fast (25MHz), but they could go something like 30 hours on a single charge and they were damn near indestructible. We kept them in service 'til around '02-'03 and ended up donating them to another organization. I really wish that I had snagged one before they went off to the great unknown... I'm still not quite sure why I didn't.

Anyway... Apple did license out the Newton OS and a few companies did build some products around it. I'm not sure about Sony, but I do know that Sharp put out their "ExpertPad" clones, Motorola with their "Marco" (which actually had a wireless modem built in), a few other smaller companies, an Siemens actually came out with a couple Newton phones - one based on the 1xx series and a cordless model based on the 2xxx series... although I'm not sure if they were ever sold here in the US:

https://www.msu.edu/~luckie/notephone.gif

https://www.msu.edu/~luckie/siemens.jpg

Playdrv4me
09-24-08, 07:35 PM
During the Newton era there were a flurry of (mostly failed) PDA Devices. I owned a few including a Casio/Tandy Zoomer PDA, a Sharp Zaurus ZR-5800, and numerous Palm PDAs (the only ones that really survived and flourished). Anyhow, I always wanted a Sony MagicLink back in the day and it did *not* run on the Apple Newton O/S. It ran on something called MagicCap which was kind of neat and was laid out like a desktop.

http://cdecas.free.fr/computers/pocket/images/magiclink.jpg

Sony found some success later with their Palm based PDAs.

dkozloski
09-24-08, 09:25 PM
You were all of what - 10 years old? Lol... The first Newton came out in the summer of 1993, but this particular model, the 2000 came out in March of '97 (at a princely MSRP of $1K), along with the eMate 300 which came in a clamshell/laptop form factor and was geared towards the education market (see pic below). The Newton received one last minor update in November '97 with the MP2100 (essentially a 2000 with more internal memory).

The 2000, 2100, and eMate were all officially discontinued on February 27, 1998 after the board ousted Gil Amelio and El Jobso returned to the big office.

The eMate 300:
http://www.everymac.com/images/cpu_pictures/apple_emate_300.jpg



I never actually owned an eMate, but I had the opportunity to use one for a while back in '97-99. We ended up receiving something like 12 of them as part of a grant package for the kids to use down at our school, along with a cart and an Apple Personal LaserWriter. They were nice little machines... they weren't particularly fast (25MHz), but they could go something like 30 hours on a single charge and they were damn near indestructible. We kept them in service 'til around '02-'03 and ended up donating them to another organization. I really wish that I had snagged one before they went off to the great unknown... I'm still not quite sure why I didn't.

Anyway... Apple did license out the Newton OS and a few companies did build some products around it. I'm not sure about Sony, but I do know that Sharp put out their "ExpertPad" clones, Motorola with their "Marco" (which actually had a wireless modem built in), a few other smaller companies, an Siemens actually came out with a couple Newton phones - one based on the 1xx series and a cordless model based on the 2xxx series... although I'm not sure if they were ever sold here in the US:

https://www.msu.edu/~luckie/notephone.gif

https://www.msu.edu/~luckie/siemens.jpg
Every EMate that I have has the same identical failure. The lid hinge failed and ruined the ribbon cable that connects the body to the display. There are some aftermarket alternatives available but the local school district wasn't interested in beating on a dead horse.

AMGoff
09-25-08, 02:54 PM
Anyhow, I always wanted a Sony MagicLink back in the day and it did *not* run on the Apple Newton O/S. It ran on something called MagicCap which was kind of neat and was laid out like a desktop.

http://cdecas.free.fr/computers/pocket/images/magiclink.jpg


Ohhh... MagicCap - I remember that well! Essentially the Microsoft "BOB" of handhelds...

As the Newton's only real rival, they really tried their best to compete against them in the... ahem.. "clone wars." I know Motorola ended up coming out with a MagicCap based unit after their Newton-based "Marco," I think it was called the Envoy or something like that.. and featured the same kind of wireless modem that made the Marco stand out against the Newton.


Every EMate that I have has the same identical failure. The lid hinge failed and ruined the ribbon cable that connects the body to the display. There are some aftermarket alternatives available but the local school district wasn't interested in beating on a dead horse.

That was pretty much an issue that afflicted all eMates... How much would you want for one?

dkozloski
09-25-08, 03:57 PM
Ohhh... MagicCap - I remember that well! Essentially the Microsoft "BOB" of handhelds...

As the Newton's only real rival, they really tried their best to compete against them in the... ahem.. "clone wars." I know Motorola ended up coming out with a MagicCap based unit after their Newton-based "Marco," I think it was called the Envoy or something like that.. and featured the same kind of wireless modem that made the Marco stand out against the Newton.



That was pretty much an issue that afflicted all eMates... How much would you want for one?
I'll check with my wife. She has them in her SPED classroom. I also have a box of residue that is the remains of the ones that were cannibalized.