Author Topic: My first ereading device...  (Read 1519 times)  

Offline Mike D. aka jmiked

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My first ereading device...
« on: May 27, 2014, 11:08:42 am »
... was an Apple Newton Messagepad 100. I'm pretty sure nobody that hangs out here has heard of these, but they were pretty popular for a while, and were a big hit in the medical community.



Introduced by Apple in 1993, it featured a ~5" monochrome LCD touch-screen, and was powered by four AAA batteries (or optional NiCad rechargeable battery pack). It was powered by a unique operating system (called Newton) with handwriting recognition,  and was revolutionary for the day. It had most of the standard apps we take for granted today: calendar, contact manager, voice memos, email client, notes manager, word processor, internet browser. The OS was in some ways more advanced than we  have today. One of the things I liked about it was the ability to tap on the Assist button, enter "lunch with Harold next Friday" and it would pop up a window with the list of people named Harold that were in the contacts list for you to choose from and a default lunch time of 12PM to 1PM (editable, of course) on next Friday's date, allow you to choose others from your contacts list to invite, and you could press OK, then it would put the event in your schedule. Brilliant!

You could either use the stylus or a pop-up keyboard to enter information. There was a hinged cover to protect the display on later models.

One of the things the Newton OS had that was unique was the way information was stored. It was all thrown into a "soup", as opposed to a formal filing system. All the apps had access to all the information in the system. A general search could turn up matches in notes, email, word processor, contacts, calendar.. all of the apps. You could choose to search only in categories, of course.

It went through several model changes in the next four years: the OMG (Original MessagePad), the 100, 110, 120, 130, and finally the 2000/2100 series in 1997:



This was a brilliant device. In this iteration of the series, it was powered by four AA batteries that could last two weeks under normal usage. It had gained an infrared transmitter/receiver port, a dual serial connector to which you could attach accessories, more memory, a ~6" screen that was a bit less readable than the earlier models, improved handwriting recognition, a microphone, and most importantly, two slots for PC cards to be inserted. The available cards were external memory and modem/fax/ethernet cards. Motorola sold the 2000 with a plug-in card with an antenna that allowed the use of the 2000 as a cell phone! The folding cover could be used as a stand, and there was a wiring slot hidden along the hinge area that was for future use allowing a never-produced cover with a keyboard to be used.

The 2100 was pretty much identical to the 2000 except for having more built-in memory, and a recessed area for the company logo to be glued into. The 2000/2100 was designed by Apple, but built by Sharp, who also sold a version under their name (it was not a success).

The Newton division of Apple was literally days away from being spun off into an independent company (there was already new management staff in place and offices set up in another city) when Steve Jobs re-assumed control of the Apple and almost immediately stopped the spinoff and killed the product ( :'( :'(). There is only speculation as to why, but one reason may be that the Newton was entirely a product of previous management, which had been instrumental in getting Jobs ousted from Apple. I'm sure he felt no ownership of the product. And Jobs allegedly hated the whole idea of a stylus-based interface.

The MessagePad was a hit with the medical offices, it allowed doctors to carry around a device to take notes and keep info in a database. I bought a 2100 from eBay to replace my 2000  back around 2002/2003, and it has a sticker on the back that says BBC with a bar code. It still had a database installed with all the patient information intact (identified by patient number, no names). There were privacy slip-ups even then!

One of the more interesting usages of the 2100 was as a web server. There were several people in the Newton community that wrote software that allowed the Newton to be used quite successfully as a web server. They my still be running. Several wrote drivers that allowed the use of WiFi cards, something that post-dates the Newton system. As might be expected, there is still a hard-core group of Newton enthusiasts who write unofficial patches to keep the systems going. One wrote a patch to fix the Y2K problem. Another wrote a patch to fix a similar date-oriented problem that occurred in 2010, but I couldn't quite get that one to work. So alas, my 2100 got retired in 2010.

I had a collection of ebooks on my 2000/2100, but due to the quality of early LCD screens, it's not a great reading experience. I had a relational database installed on mine that kept track of my 3000+ (at the time). It went with me almost everywhere, especially book-hunting.

Several years ago, I took it to a lunch with friends. The wife of one of the fellows looked at it and was horrified. "It's so huge! Who would want something like that?" Next year the iPad came out, and it didn't seem so huge any more.  ;D

Long story, but it's close to the 20th anniversary of the introduction of a ground-breaking device that has pretty much been forgotten and I thought it deserved mention. With a modern screen and updated SDcard support, I believe it would still be competitive. Some people have ported the OS to the Android platform. A nice project, but I'm afraid the Newton ship has sailed.

Too bad. RIP, Newton.


Mike


Edit: This probably should have gone in the Apple devices section. Oh, well. Moderators feel free to move or not as you see fit.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2014, 11:34:55 am by jmiked »

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    Offline Toby

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    Re: My first ereading device...
    « Reply #1 on: May 27, 2014, 08:02:59 pm »
    That was fascinating. I never knew these devices existed. Thanks!

    Offline The Hooded Claw

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    Re: My first ereading device...
    « Reply #2 on: May 30, 2014, 05:26:47 pm »
    I don't remember the MessagePad, but I actually owned a Newton. Technically I still own it, since I'm pretty sure it's in the back closet or somewhere around here. I'm sure the batteries are long dead. I never viewed it as successful, primarily because I couldn't put it in my pocket, and since I'm not used to carrying a purse it was hard for me to carry around and have with me at all times. Also the handwriting recognition was weak in my experience. In particular, it insisted on interpreting my Ls as the English Pound sign, which I don't think I've ever actually written in my life. I looked for, but couldn't find a way to tell it to take the English Pound sign out  of it's library of symbols. I eventually abandoned carrying the thing, and slowly forgot about it. I didn't have a clue that there were e-books available for it. A few years later I got a Palm device. Even there I was not an early adopter, I did get a Palm V the day it was released though. Later I bought a Palm Treo, and have never looked back from gadgets since. I enabled one of my best friends onto Palm, he later repaid the favor by enabling me on Kindle. He read e-books on his Palm, but I never used Palm e-books. My first actual e-reader was an app on the Palm Pre smart phone. It depended on having an Internet connection, and I really wasn't pleased with it. I didn't try ebooks again until I got my Kindle.
    « Last Edit: May 30, 2014, 05:29:37 pm by The Hooded Claw »
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    Offline Mike D. aka jmiked

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    Re: My first ereading device...
    « Reply #3 on: May 30, 2014, 10:18:49 pm »
    "Newton" was the name of the OS that the MessagePads ran. So if you had something running NOS (Newton Operating System), then you had a MessagePad.

    I didn't have a problem with the handwriting recognition, particularly after the MP2000 came out with the advanced recognition and correction capabilities. Of course, this could be due to my having been a professional mechanical draftsman for a number of years before computers. My printing was well above average. There was aways the pop-up keyboard or the Graffiti app for those with handwriting that was not so good.

    I went over to the Palm devices also. Started out with an M100, then gave that to one of my brothers and got a Palm Tungsten E. I liked the TE very much, except for battery life. The LCD screen was light-years better than the one on the MessagePad. I used the TE for reading whenever away from the house. It's currently sitting up on the Shelf of Gadgets Past in the living room, sitting next to the MessagePads, iPod Mini, and my first iPod (20Gig hard drive model).

    I used to carry my MP around in a form-fitting case with a shoulder strap when I went book-hunting. Later I started wearing cargo pants and just used the big pockets instead. My Nexus 7 is about the same size, albeit a few ounces lighter. The Nexus won't do two weeks between battery charges though (color screen, WiFi, GPS, etc). One of the things to remember about the MessagePad was that it was a good alternative to carrying around a 1994-era laptop. I'm pretty sure there was not anything else around at the time that was as capable.

    I got out my MP2100 several days ago to see if the Year 2010 date fix would work. It did, but I encountered a classic Catch-22 situation: The computer program to transfer apps via serial connection to the MP would only go as low as 35 kilobaud, and the factory-clean MP OS would only go as high as 9600 baud. And I needed the computer to transfer the app to allow the MP to communicate at the higher speed. I finally got around it by going in the back room and hauling out my old OS9 computer which could talk to the MP at 9600. I installed the patch and it worked just fine. I'm going to play around with it just for nostalgia's sake for a while. For a long time, nothing was close to the capabilities of the MP, but current tablets and phones have much, much better hardware.

    There's a couple of guys that have ported the Newton OS to run on Android (also IOS, I think), so I might give that a try on my Nexus 7 after I get my Nexus 10 in a few months.

    All that being said, I think my Galaxy S3 puts all those things in the shade, IMHO. I infrequently use it as a phone, I look upon it as my handheld computer.

    Yes, I just like gadgets.  :) :)


    Mike

    Offline Mike D. aka jmiked

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    Re: My first ereading device...
    « Reply #4 on: May 31, 2014, 09:14:00 am »
    Even I had forgotten about this:



    It's a MessagePad in a different case that includes a keyboard. It's called the eMate 300, and came in various colors. I don't think I've seen one of these in person. It was aimed at the education market, and came in what someone at Apple imagined was a few kid-friendly colors.

    Mike
    « Last Edit: May 31, 2014, 09:15:53 am by jmiked »

    Offline luvmykindle3

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    Re: My first ereading device...
    « Reply #5 on: June 20, 2014, 06:14:39 pm »
    My mom still has her Newton in a box! I should check to see if it works !

    Offline SamanthaWheatley11

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    Re: My first ereading device...
    « Reply #6 on: July 31, 2014, 02:48:46 pm »
    Wow! Some kind of old school but i find them too cool.
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