talkgroup

Apple Newton

OK. Talked myself out of buying a PalmOS device.

Time for the Apple Newton

While I liked my PalmOS devices, I kept thinking a larger almost slate like device I could take notes on more naturally would be better. So in college, I saved my money from my part time job(s) at the university ( I baby sat computer labs and tutored intro to logic students ) to buy a second hand Newton Messagepad.

No camera and while it can be made to do MP3 playback because of an awesome community it’s much worse at MP3 playback than late gen PalmOS devices.

What it excels at though is handwriting recognition (with one important caveat) and note taking, where it beats PalmOS in spades. The handwriting recognition however was limited to cursive.

It had TWO pcmcia slots. Can use pcmcia wireless cards.

I actually got the people at manybooks.net to look at the open source tools for creating Newton ebooks and adding Newton support many many years ago. Which in turn allowed me to download philosophy texts from them to my Newton for the very philosophy classes I was taking at the time.

PCMCIA slots could be expanded for storage too! It had a rather strange storage seems. Some sort of nonvolatile ram card it could read/write to over that bus.

The operating system was pervassively object oriented. Notes could contain a free form of objects, like text, or drawings, or flow charts. The handwriting recognition engine could also recognize simple shapes converting them to manipulatable vectors. All free flowing in the same document.

There however was no easy time exporting this data out to PC per se. The file system was literally an object oriented soup. Literally refrenced as soups. So different styles of documents had to have different translation layers to the host PC with greater or lesser degrees of success.

Battery life sucked ass on it. Most Newton users by that point were stuck on tripple-A battery “trays” or very expensive refurbished batteries.

WiFi capped out at WEP. No SSLv2 support. And while the community has done a very good job at staying active and finding ways around some of these limitations a lot of them are also Mac enthusiasts which put a very rough ceiling on using it with say GNU/Linux.

3 Likes