HomeAppleNewton MessagePad conjures up cell revolution

Newton MessagePad conjures up cell revolution


August 2: Today in Apple history: Newton MessagePad launch inspires mobile revolution August 2, 1993: Apple debuts the MessagePad, the primary product in its Newton line of handheld private digital assistants.

Probably the most unfairly maligned product in Apple historical past, the Newton is a revolutionary system. It predates Apple’s push towards app-based cell gadgets 14 years later. Typically dismissed as a failure, the Newton ranks close to the highest of the checklist of Apple’s most influential creations.

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The Apple Newton: John Sculley’s Mac

The Newton was usually regarded, each internally and externally, as Apple CEO John Sculley‘s reply to Steve Jobs’ Mac. The system marked his first try and launch a game-changing new product line throughout his tenure as Apple’s chief govt.

“It was Sculley’s Macintosh,” Frank O’Mahoney, one of many Apple advertising managers who labored on the Newton, advised me after I interviewed him for my ebook The Apple Revolution. “It was Sculley’s alternative to do what Steve had executed, however in his personal class of product.”

The Newton was the brainchild of Apple engineer Steve Sakoman. Passionately devoted to handheld computing, Sakoman beforehand constructed the HP 110, the world’s first battery-powered moveable MS-DOS PC, whereas at Hewlett-Packard within the Eighties.

He began the Apple skunkworks venture that grew to become the Newton in 1987. Nonetheless, it grew unwieldy after Sakoman added to his wishlist all of the cutting-edge cell expertise options displaying up in analysis labs. These included a touch-sensitive display, handwriting recognition, a tough disk and a large battery. An infrared port would even enable the gadgets to speak with each other. (Keep in mind that each one of this was within the late Eighties!)

Sakoman left Apple in 1990. In early 1991, Sculley noticed the idea. At that time, the Newton moved from skunkworks venture to full-speed-ahead growth.

Considered one of advertising whiz Sculley‘s chief contributions? Arising with the phrase “private digital assistant” to explain what the Newton would truly do for patrons.

The launch of the Newton MessagePad

The Newton MessagePad launch on the 1993 Macworld Expo proved comparatively low-key in comparison with the 1984 debut of the Macintosh. Nonetheless, Apple’s new handheld system garnered a good quantity of press.

Sadly, a few of this took the type of parodies of the Newton’s expertise. Its handwriting-recognition software program took an particularly massive hit. (It acquired spoofed in a Doonesbury cartoon and on The Simpsons.)

This Doonesbury cartoon hit the Newton hard
This Doonesbury cartoon hit the Newton laborious.
Picture: Doonesbury

In actual fact, the Newton’s handwriting recognition truly labored impressively effectively. Think about two of its most gorgeous options (and once more, let me remind you this was greater than a quarter-century in the past!).

First, the Newton may acknowledge cursive handwriting in addition to printed letters. Second, whereas it shipped with a library of 10,000 phrases it may acknowledge out of the field, the system may study new phrases simply as iPhones do at present.

That wasn’t the one little bit of synthetic intelligence constructed into the MessagePad, both. It additionally confirmed contextual consciousness of what an individual was writing. As an example, scribbling in “Meet Killian Bell for lunch on Wednesday” would create an entry within the MessagePad’s calendar app on the acceptable time.

Talking of apps, the first-gen MessagePad included a notepad, appointment ebook and tackle ebook. Impressively, it additionally included Sakoman’s infrared transmitter, letting customers “beam” information to and from different Newtons or — in a considerably un-Apple transfer — to rival Sharp Wizard digital organizers. Add-on {hardware} included reminiscence playing cards, battery packs, energy adapters and an exterior fax modem that linked the system to Macs or Home windows PCs.

The Newton MessagePad: Forward of its time

In all, the Newton MessagePad was a formidable $699 system that proved method forward of its time. The glossy black look of the system was extra harking back to Apple’s later iPhones than the “Snow White” design language of the Macintosh line within the early ’90s.

In the end, three issues doomed the Newton: early damaging press, a scarcity of the web connectivity that might make smartphones “should have” gadgets, and Apple’s early Nineteen Nineties id disaster. (The corporate’s merchandise proved too dear for informal consumers however too dangerous and underpowered for enterprise customers.)

The Newton grew to become a business failure — however it spawned lots of the largest successes Apple loved in later years.

Apple Newton will get higher over time

Though the Newton by no means wound up changing into a giant hit for Apple, subsequent iterations of the system ironed out a whole lot of its early issues. By the point Jobs returned to Apple within the late Nineteen Nineties, the remaining Newton — the MessagePad 2100 — had been launched, providing the most effective iteration of the product but.

By this level, Apple engineers had solved the early handwriting-recognition issues. The end result was as helpful a pocket system as you might anticipate within the days earlier than ubiquitous cell web.

Nonetheless, Jobs canceled the product line. He selected to focus Apple’s consideration on blockbuster merchandise just like the iMac G3, the iBook and the iPod.

Did you’ve an unique Newton MessagePad? Go away your feedback and recollections under.



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