Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Early Ipad

A friend sent me a photo of his first version Apple Message Pad which was called the Newton.  I rummaged around my office and found both models of these devices.  The one in the middle is an iPhone.

The Apple Newton lasted about five years. (1993-98)  It began with the one on the left and evolved into the one on the right.  They had a black and white screen but synched calendars and notes and a couple of other functions.   Interestingly they were made in Japan.  They used flash memory cards that ran up to 16 megabytes in memory.  The later model could hold two of those.  The current iPad holds up to 64 gigabytes of memory.

The killer part of the device was supposed to be hand-writing recognition.  They used a RISC based processor and a fairly sophisticated program to discern handwriting.  You could teach it to read your writing.  I liked both devices.   As I remember them they had pretty good battery life.  (Not as good as the Ipad.)  But the handwriting recognition was chancy.  This afternoon I wrote HELLO and got 4510.

I was able to download text versions of books - I had Revolt of the Masses on my newer model.  It also had a primitive net application called NetHopper and an email application which allowed POP mail.  Palm beat it out for two reasons. First they improved the form factor.  The Newton was too large to carry in your pocket but too small to do things you can do on the iPad.   Second, they improved handwriting including development of a shorthand recognition program for handwriting that was near 100% accurate.  The Newton also had a calling possibility - although when I used it it was very clumsy.   Palm was a PDA (Personal Data Assistant - which the Newton was also).  But then smart phones began to be developed and Palm devices fell by the wayside.  

The benefit of the Newton was its portability.  Laptops at the time were in the 8-10 pound range.  This was a much more limited device but if you could add comparable software to this small device - it would allow you to not have to lug around the biggie.   The Newton was ditched when Apple was in its uncertain period.  The two CEOs after Sculley had no idea about the culture at Apple.  (I am not sure Sculley did either.)    

I have a stash of technologies that did not make it or are now outdated.   What is remarkable is how quickly the options and opportunities have evolved.


Genghis7777 said...

When you wrote "hello" did you do it on the OMP or on the MP2x00?

I've only used the MP2x00s and the eMate and found that the Handwriting Recognition accuracy was pretty good. It was never as bad as what you got so either your handwriting is really bad or the OMP had a really poor HWR engine. See http://myapplenewton.blogspot.com/2009/01/hwr-accuracy-test.html

I've got to say that the iPhone is still catching up with many of the features built into the Messagepad. System wide search was a feature that was in the original messagepad (OMP) from the start. So were folders. So was copy, cut and paste.

Interestingly the MS Courier videos suggest that their version of copy, cut and paste is almost identical to the method used on the Newton.

For me, the accuracy of the HWR is pretty good and I'm still using it as my everyday work machine.

I don't know when you stopped using your Newtons but these days, support for Wifi, Bluetooth, and ATA flash storage have come about through the developmental prowess of the Newton user community: http://myapplenewton.blogspot.com

Dr. Tax in Sacramento said...

I was using the MP2000. When I was using my Newton I found it improved with usage - the way the stylus was held and other things influenced the accuracy.

What was most accurate was your conclusion about the features. Search, folders and copy, cut and paste were superb. The iPad could indeed use universal search - I am hopeful that as the operating system is revised it will include those features.

I moved on from the Newton because laptops got lighter but firing up both models last night brought back some great memories. I will check out the spots.