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History of the Apple Newton

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the bonk-ow! dept.

Handhelds 222

Sabah Arif writes "We've all heard of Apple's Newton, the portable handheld device under John Sculley's rule at Apple that debuted to big media attention and much fanfare but never managed to take a strong footing in the marketplace. The same handhel that went on to be 'Steve'd' when Mr. RDF killed the project after taking control of Apple. That's the extent of knowledge most of us have with regard to Apple's first handheld device. OS Opinion sheds light on the early days of the pocket Apple." From the article: "Apple in the late eighties had become stagnant. The Macintosh had become Apple's cash cow like the Apple II that had preceded it. To protect the Mac, Apple was hesitant to start or pursue any project that might compromise the company's revenues. Several people in the corporation were weary of this approach, and began to look at the future of computing. One of those people was Steve Sakoman."

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222 comments

Beat up Martin (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706159)

Eat up Martha

Re:Beat up Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706181)

Seat up Mazda

Re:Beat up Martin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706882)

Heh. kinda looks like another "let's examine the wonderfulness of a failed and useless apple product". not much surprise to me though. they do this all the time.

Re:Beat up Martin (3, Informative)

xCepheus (687775) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706202)

For those of you who are not a fan of the Simpsons or don't have all 350+ episodes memorized by heart this is a reference where the school bullies (Jimbo, Nelson and others) make a note on their Newton to "Beat up Martin" (Martin Prince one of the nerdiest and smartest kids in school) using the Newton Stylus. After writing in the phrase... the Newton interprets the Stylus input as "Eat up Martha." In frustration, the bullies throw the Newton at Martin which hits him in the head.

God, I'm such a nerd.

Re:Beat up Martin (1, Insightful)

justforaday (560408) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706227)

Yet again, another clueless mod shows his ignorance...

Yes... Mod Grandparent UP +1 Funny (1)

xCepheus (687775) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706241)

Or +1 Insightful as it does bear some light on the poor Stylus input to text recognitions on the old Newtons.

Fiji (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706410)

If you used one of the original Newtons you would have seen this word more times than the sum of all previous times in your life. It seemed that every time I entered a contraction beginning with a capital I, this was what it was interpreted as. Gary Trudeau of lampooned the whole Fiji thing in his Doonesbury strip when the Newton came out.

Slashdot (0, Troll)

PyWiz (865118) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706183)

Old news for Nerds. Stuff that doesn't matter.

Re:Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706246)

But ... but ... but ... it's Apple!
Everyone loves Apple!

Apple Apple Apple Apple.
I <3 Stevie Jobbs!!!1!!

Re:Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706394)

"Apple Computer
-- proudly going out of business for 28 years"

Re:Slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706292)

Slashdot looks to have an obsession lately with news about the past history of Apple. That's a good thing, as they're a popular company many geeks new to Apple are interested in and a weekly 'history lesson' in the form of a story like this is welcome.

But dammit MLAgazine people, please try to get your facts right. So far every other apple and steve jobs history piece is full of so many inaccuracies, urban legends presented as truth, and pieces I can only presume were made up because they sounded good (they certainly bear no resemblance to the truth) that I have to recommend people DON'T read your articles, and go google for themselves on a topic.

Check Sources. Please.

Re:Slashdot (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706315)

"Old news for Nerds. Stuff that doesn't matter."

Yet, still interesting enough to post a comment in. I wouldn't mind, but more comments means more apparent interest in these stories.

Re:Slashdot (2, Interesting)

Maestro4k (707634) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706388)

Old news for Nerds. Stuff that doesn't matter.
This is a rather universal sentiment nowadays, but the cliche that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it is quite often accurate. This applies to nerds as well, especially in technology. Looking at what was done with the Newton can help us understand why it failed and potentially help us to prevent similar problems from happening in future products.

SlashProducts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706953)

"Looking at what was done with the Newton can help us understand why it failed and potentially help us to prevent similar problems from happening in future products."

Nerds don't create a product. They create technology, that might end up as a product.

Larry Yeager (1)

suso (153703) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706195)

I once got to talk with Larry Yeager, the guy who supposibly helped write the handwriting recognition software for the Newton and a lot of other neat software. He now lives about 30 minutes away from Bloomington and Apple paid the ISP I used to work for to have a T1 out to his house (back in the 90s when that was about $3000 a month for such a service). Really sharp guy, look him up on the net sometime.

Re:Larry Yeager (1)

indianacissp (888981) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706857)

Hey... I worked for Kiva back then. I actually was the guy that had to downgrade Larry to a dialup after the Newton was canned.

Way ahead of its time (4, Interesting)

MoonFacedAssassin (539728) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706212)

The Newton was way ahead of its time in many aspects: versatility, portability, object-oriented based language (at first), etc. If the Newton had flourished as well as our current Palm devices and Pocket PC devices, we might all be using Newtons, or a derivative, instead.

Of course, we can all thank the Newton for paving the way to a lot of our mobile device concepts. Well, the Newton, and Star Trek.

Way ahead of its time-Pippin. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706252)

Well the Pippin was pretty far ahead as well.

Re:Way ahead of its time-Pippin. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706279)

Yes, it gave us a clear idea of where the Dreamcast was headed...

I kid, I kid...

Re:Way ahead of its time (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706293)

Hi Mr Jobs!!

I'm so glad I finally found you on Slashdot! My boyfriend and I are such super-duper fans of yours..I know you're a busy man but I would be very grateful if you could answer some questions I've always wanted to know.

My first question: I've heard rumours that there is a nude picture of you hidden somewhere in OSX - is this true? If so what can I do to reveal it. Ok, secondly: What is the secret to making an Operating System so homosexual-friendly? I couldn't believe it when I used a MAC for the first time at a computer shop...I was in love from the moment I looked at the screen. I bought one immediately and since then I've found it fits in perfectly with my choice of lifestyle. My boyfriend and I find editing our scat-porn-videos so much easier!

Well, I hope you have some time inbetween to answer my questions. Love, Brian XXX

Re:Way ahead of its time (1)

lostwanderer147 (829316) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706320)

I had the chance to use one of these things about five years ago. As part of a class, one thing we did was to take light intensity and temperature data. The really nice thing about the Newton was that, well before any of the Palm devices, you were able to take data, and then manipulate it right on the spot.

AFAIK, the Newton got discontinued because there was no demand for it. They weren't selling well, so Apple decided that it wouldn't make them anymore. Had it come around several years later, just as Palms, etc, were exploding into the market, the current tablet PC market would be a lot different.

Re:Way ahead of its time (4, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706481)

I had the chance to use one of these things about five years ago. As part of a class, one thing we did was to take light intensity and temperature data. The really nice thing about the Newton was that, well before any of the Palm devices, you were able to take data, and then manipulate it right on the spot.

AFAIK, the Newton got discontinued because there was no demand for it. They weren't selling well, so Apple decided that it wouldn't make them anymore. Had it come around several years later, just as Palms, etc, were exploding into the market, the current tablet PC market would be a lot different.


I have an MP100, and it was ahead of it's time. It did a lot of things well (except HWR), and with a better processor HWR would've come along (and IAR Graffiti was available for the Newt).

Later I had a 2K with keyboard and modem for a review I was writing. It truly was a very usuable laptop replacement, I carried it to class in grad school. Unfortunately, the price killed it - I also had a PalmPilot, as an organizer it's size and lower cost made it a far better machine than the Newton. For whatever reason, Apple decided not to develop the Newt to it's true potential while Palm created a new market.

Re:Way ahead of its time (1)

justforaday (560408) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706520)

It did a lot of things well (except HWR), and with a better processor HWR would've come along
IIRC, the last generation of Newtons used the same processor (StrongARM @ ~200MHz or so) that was used in PocketPCs like 6 or 7 years later.

Re:Way ahead of its time (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706343)

An employee suggested to me that we use Newtons on a few employees here as an evaluation. I was skeptical at first but he explained the benefits of using Newtons instead of having to buy those crappy Treo 650s. So I decided to let him replace the Treos for 5 employees's to see how the employees got on. Besides, our IT manager had been using a Newton at home and he hadn't reported any problems - why not try it on our employees?

Once he'd got the employees up and running with the Newtons we let them try it out. It all seemed fine to start with: The Newtons were a pretty good replacement for those shitty Treos we'd used before and the employees could still do their work as normal.

Alas it did not stay that way. After a few days, I had lost count of the number of complaints received from our employees. Users could not do things they could before (like read their email). The final straw came when one employee lost several hours work when the Newton "stylus" suddenly mistranslated his writings, destroying the 70 page legal document he had been working on (subsequently, the defendant was sentenced to death for a parking ticket.)

Needless to say, the Newton team, having been dead for a decade, offered no support whatsoever. I made the employee destroy the Newtons and lets just say he's not with us anymore.

Just goes to show.. (1)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706411)

pricing is important. As I recall, it didn't catch on because it was too expensive.
They were like a grand each, in '80s dollars.

Re:Just goes to show.. (2, Interesting)

Frangible (881728) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706521)

I owned a MP130. The other problems were the built in software, while innovative, wasn't nearly as streamlined as the Palm PIM suite later released with the Pilot, the device was a bit sluggish, and the screen -- especially the MP100 -- was very hard to see and had a poor contrast ratio, and was really reflective and had lots of glare. Also, the handwriting recognition really sucked. And you're right, they were also pretty expensive. The Newton had a ton of good ideas and was very innovative, but it wasn't quite there.

Re:Way ahead of its time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706779)

If the Newton had flourished as well as our current Palm devices and Pocket PC devices, we might all be using Newtons, or a derivative, instead.
If we lived in the ocean instead of on land, we might all be breathing through gills instead of lungs. But we don't, so we don't.

Re:Way ahead of its time (1)

jdog1016 (703094) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706842)

It was only ahead of its time because it was rushed to market and consequently didn't do what its target customer base needed it to do (or more specifically, it did, but made it 1000x more complex than needed). Maybe the Palm, which came out three years later, was not as Technologically Advanced as the Newton, but it was smaller and actually did what it needed to do. Hence why Palm is still in the market and Newton isn't.

Newton web browser (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706233)

Back in '94 or '95 or so, a friend of mine at the University of Michigan made a Newton web browser.

Actually, it was more like a Newton front end to a Mac faceless-application web browser, where the Mac did the "http get" and passed it to the Newton over the wire, and the Newton rendered the html.

I don't know if he ever finished it or not but I think he published an in-house technical paper on it. "Published" in the sense that it qualifies as prior art for patent purposes, not in the sense that it was widely circulated. Patents on web-enabled phones that don't do TCP/IP at the phone itself may be subject to challenge because of this.

Defying Gravity (4, Informative)

tsangc (177574) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706234)

There's a fantastic book called Defying Gravity about the development of Newton. It's worth the read.

Sure wish I got one while they were around--a local store was giving away a copy free with every Newton 2100 back in the day.

Re:Defying Gravity (1)

jargon (75774) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706584)

My mother gave me a copy maybe 10 years ago. It is a facinating look inside Apple, and I thought it was interesting to see how their product development worked. Also - their decisions about what NOT to do...

RDF (3, Interesting)

mavpion (5416) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706251)

Reality Distortion Field [wikipedia.org] The "power" of Steve Jobs to convince those around him of any truth he wishes them to see.

Though, the Newton really was a failure. It did many things right, but it was too bulky and costly: the Palm Pilot was less sophisticated, but it really matched what consumers needed.

Re:RDF (3, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706364)

The "power" of Steve Jobs to convince those around him of any truth he wishes them to see.

So Jobs is a Jedi?

<waves hand>You will pay too much for this music player</waves hand>

I will pay too much for that music player.

RDF-NeXT. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706407)

"Steve Jpbs and the NeXT big thing by Randall E.Stross" mentions that famous field as well.

Another interesting fact is that at heart Steve isn't really a computer user.

Re:RDF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706793)

Newton is to Palm
as
Lisa is to Macintosh

(I worked on both the Lisa and Newton products.)

In other words, the Newton/Lisa were too big, too expensive, and tried to push the technology a bit too far, while the Palm/Mac were simpler, cuter, smaller, more focused, and worked better because the technology handled the more limited capabilities better.

But, I think the biggest reason the Newton failed (and couldn't recover) was a marketing and design mismatch. Because it was a new kind of product, the initial marketing focused strongly on a display station with a Newton that people could play with. The Newton used a free-form handwriting recognition system that worked pretty well because it was dictionary based--the system wasn't trying to guess each letter alone, but would try to figure our what word you were trying to write. And that dictionary initially didn't contain names. So, a prospective customer goes up to the Newton sales display, picks up the pen, and what does everyone write first? Why their name, of course! And names would never work. So Newton got a reputation for making amusingly wrong transcriptions of handwriting, and it never recovered from that.

A Wish for Newton Reborn as a Tablet (2, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706277)

I know some of you don't like the idea of Tablet PC but I think they are terrific personally. I've always wished that Apple would dump their Newton technology into a Tablet style machine. It would be fantastic for note taking during meetings and would allow me to better edit and distribute my notes. Not to mention the ones with the foldable keyboards are a more flexible form factor for mobile professionals like me. And I'd rather use a Mac than Windows with its underlying unix goodness and sweet interface.

Who knows if we'll ever see it though. It's not clear if there is a big enough market (I think there is but the products aren't good enough yet) and Steve Jobs just doesn't seem fond of the idea. But if anyone could really make it work, I think it would be Apple. Guess I have to keep dreaming...

Re:A Wish for Newton Reborn as a Tablet (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706337)



"I know some of you don't like the idea of Tablet PC but I think they are terrific personally."

If more people could see them being used effectively, they might be received better.

I had my doubts, but, I've seen students using them with great success -- although they have been Asian students. It's clear that the tablet form factor is much more effective for writers of Asian calligraphic languages, than any typewriter.

The other area where tablet PCs are a big win, is in the space occupied by tablet controllers, like photo editing. It's much more cost-effective to get a tablet pc for photoshop, than to get a pc and a graphics tablet.

A couple of my old bosses had Newtons. I used to go to meetings with a legal pad, and called it my Newton. It had a stylus interface, a delete function, it did vector graphics, it worked in landscape and portrait modes, etc. ...

Nobody thought it was funny then, either.

A WIMPy Interface. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706489)

"If more people could see them being used effectively, they might be received better.

I had my doubts, but, I've seen students using them with great success -- although they have been Asian students. It's clear that the tablet form factor is much more effective for writers of Asian calligraphic languages, than any typewriter."

Tablet PC's don't lend themselves well to the WIMP interface everyone's trained upon. Throw that out, and maybe Tablet PCs would do better.

"Nobody thought it was funny then, either."

A comedian ahead of his time. :)

Re:A Wish for Newton Reborn as a Tablet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706692)

apple is already making tablets. Last week in starbucks some nitwit excitedly asked me "is that a tablet?". I then turned my powerbook so he could see the apple logo.

Still waiting for a successor . . . (3, Interesting)

myawn (562028) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706282)

I'm not able to read the article, as apparently the site was slashdotted after the second reader.

I had several Newtons - an MP 100, an MP 120, and finally an MP 2000 (that was later upgraded to an MP 2100). The technology improved dramatically over those generations, and I really would love to see what would have emerged had development continued.

Since the Newton, I've used Palm, PocketPC, and Sharp Zaurus PDAs, and have yet to find anything I consider a worthy successor to the Newton. The integration of all the applications was seamless, and the software was truly designed to be used on a PDA, not just scaled down from some desktop application.

The form factor was a little clunky - either a smaller pocket-sized device, or a full-size tablet would have been better in my opinion - but I'm still looking for an overall user experience that's comparable, and haven't found it.

Had Newton and no Personal Computer (1)

quietpenguin (886769) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706297)

I had a MessagePad for a while. For about a year it served as my Personal Computer (I synced with a machine at work.) No other device this small has ever fulfilled this role for me. Hand writing recognition was not nearly as bad as legend has it. I was a pretty kickin' graffiti guy on a Palm for a while; now, having not used one for a while, I can't use it anymore. Anyway, there's a great Newton book - Defying Gravity - which was released. I've got a copy. Best thing is the typo on the spine. The Newton was a great sparkling piece of technology, and a great launch. On par with Mac OS X, but more revolutionary I think.

Re:Had Newton and no Personal Computer (2, Funny)

justforaday (560408) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706330)

Anyway, there's a great Newton book - Defying Gravity - which was released. I've got a copy. Best thing is the typo on the spine.

I'm not sure you're making such a good case for this book...

Re:Had Newton and no Personal Computer (1)

quietpenguin (886769) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706761)

well, perhaps the text was entered on a Newton? I meant "best thing" as in "funniest thing"

Let's just stop beating around the bush (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706307)

Seriously, let's just all discuss Steve Job's balls. Why beat around the bush?

Steve Job's balls are huge and very very hairy. Would anyone else like to contribute?

what is the history of a fig newton?? (2, Funny)

Cutting_Crew (708624) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706318)

at first when i read the headline i thought it was talking about fig newtons with apple flavor..

Re:what is the history of a fig newton?? (1)

Reverend528 (585549) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706479)

fig newtons, by definition, contain figs, not apples. when nabisco makes newtons with apples, they are called apple newtons.

Re:what is the history of a fig newton?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706484)

Boy! I bet you were disappointed. :)

Re:what is the history of a fig newton?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706668)

Newtons [nabisco.com]

A work of art. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706323)

The Newton (from the 2000 series onwards) was way ahead of it's time and remains unmatched in functionality, ease of use, and brilliant interface design to this day.

From the Rosetta handwriting recognition system, to the NewtonScript language (which has allowed the OS to be extended by hobbyists everywhere: even to include support for hardware that wasn't even on the drawing boards in 1997) and the huge amounts of functionality it possessed (want to send a fax? check your email? IRC? browse the web? SSH? run a web server? anything was and still is possible on the Newton.)

The Newton MP2100 packed a 160MHz ARM processor, loads of memory, a greyscale screen and 2 full size PCMCIA slots, and continues to serve it's owners well to this day.

I truly hope someone recreates the Newton experience using today's technology.

Cramming Windows into small handheld devices and reusing the same old paradigm is a giant step backwards.

The caption is wrong. (3, Funny)

hawk (1151) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706352)

Thisis zketh the new ton with handwriting skjkl35. To be accurate, no sksk article can possibly de free of garbled tect.

:)

hawk

Egg Freckles (2, Interesting)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706374)

In a MP 120 with the 2.0 version of the OS, write "Egg Freckles" and then hit Assist.

In the prototype MP 2000 units (code named "Q"), the first run or EVT units: Write "About Newton" and press Assist. In the DVT and production units it says "What about Newton?" followed by "What about xxx?" where xxx is the name of each developer who worked on the project (sequentially).

In the EVT units, instead of the developer names, it uses Larry, Moe, Curly, and Shemp.

Also, you gotta love the Area 51 Easter egg in the first 2.0 Newtons.

There was also a Solar Eclipse easter Egg, but I can't remember what OS version/models had it. (Possibly the MP100.)

I love the Newton.

Re:Egg Freckles (1)

jamesoutlaw (87295) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706633)

The MP120 had the solar eclipse Easter Egg also. I remember seeing it for the first time and thinking "what the heck was that?" haha

Own one. Use one. (1)

boyfaceddog (788041) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706375)

I had a palm, once. I hated the whole letter-by-letter method of writing. Who writes like that? I will use a Newton until the last one catches fire in my hand, or until I die.

Re:Own one. Use one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706836)

I hated the whole letter-by-letter method of writing. Who writes like that?

Most Westerners? Unless you're writing in ideograms or hieroglyphics, you pretty much have to write one letter at a time.

One of these days... (1)

Frankus (38740) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706377)

I'll have to finish my Newton Ant Farm.

Any idea where I can get an EL backlight?

Article in full (2, Informative)

oscast (653817) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706403)

"We've all heard of Apple's Newton, the portable handheld device under John Sculley's rule at Apple that debuted to big media attention and much fanfare but never managed to take a strong footing in the marketplace -- only to be "Steve'd" when Mr. RDF killed the project after taking control of Apple. That's the extent of knowledge most of us have with regard to Apple's first handheld device.

Thomas Hormby submitted the following editorial to osOpinion/osViews, which gives us more in-depth knowledge about the Netwon project during its original development -- such as the fact that it could be said that the Netwon originated from a concept device Sculley called Knowledge Navigator."
--

Apple in the late eighties had become stagnant. The Macintosh had become Apple's cash cow like the Apple II that had preceded it. To protect the Mac, Apple was hesitant to start or pursue any project that might compromise the company's revenues. Several people in the corporation were weary of this approach, and began to look at the future of computing. One of those people was Steve Sakoman.

Steve Sakoman worked at Hewlett Packard before he came to Apple, where he helped develop the first HP notebook. When he joined Apple he was happy that he 'was not going to make DOS clones for the rest of my life.' Steve had joined Apple to work on the MacPhone, a collaboration between Apple and AT&T.

After the project was canceled, he saw that Apple was not willing to take the same risks it had with the original Macintosh or even the Macintosh II. He went to Apple's director of new products, Jean Louis Gass'e, and threatened to quit unless he was allowed to create the 'future Macintosh', a computer that would be as influential on the computer industry as the original Macintosh was. Gass'e sympathized with him, and gave him permission to begin an independent research group

While Sakoman was at Hewlett Packard, he saw several 'hand entry computers that did not use keyboards. He was intrigued with the idea of scrapping the keyboard. The fact that most computers used a QWERTY keyboard was a mere fluke, he thought. Steve thought that a more natural method of input would take hold, like handwriting or speech.

Sakoman set to work immediately, getting his brand new research group off the ground. He recruited developers from around the company, including some original Macintosh developers. Like the original Macintosh and their off-site office, Texaco Tower, the new team moved to a converted warehouse on Bubb Road. Steve named the team 'Newton'. He did so because Sir'Isaac Newton was featured prominently in Apple's original logo and because he had prompted so many changes in the way people viewed the world.

At the time of the Macintosh II introduction, John Sculley had a video produced featuring his Knowledge Navigator device. He envisioned a tablet style device that would fold out to reveal a large color LCD display. The software would interpret the users commands via a humanoid assistant. The device could recognize voice commands, and interpret handwriting commands. Prescient of the internet, Sculley would have the device be able to communicate fluently with similar devices and servers around the world.

The Knowledge Navigator never went any further than the video, but John Sculley hoped that the technologies he had envisioned in the device would find life in other Apple projects. He thought that the Newton would be able fulfill his vision, and became one of its most vocal proponents.

The research group first found out what they wanted in a computer, and created a prototype design. Without any marketing staff, the team came up with a very advanced, very expensive device. The new machine was to be based on two AT&T Hobbit processors (a design that was very easy to program for) and would be about the size as an A4 sheet of paper, and feature a large, LCD, grayscale display. The true star of the new computer would be its software. The engineers wanted full handwriting recognition that could file away and even interpret the user's scribbles. More powerful than any other Macintosh on the market, it was estimated that the machine would cost $8,000, more than any other Apple notebook ever sold.

The group set to work creating the software and hardware for the machine, but accomplished little. Even with the support of Gass'e and Sculley, the Newton project was not making any progress towards making a product. The team found through focus groups that users who were willing to spend that much money on a computer wanted to be able to run the same software they could on their similarly-sized and priced notebook computers.

Steve Sakoman was frustrated with the lack of progress with the Newton, and quit along with Jean Louis Gass'e, and both went on to create BeOS.

John Sculley was disheartened by the lack of progress on the Newton project. He sent Larry Tesler, former head of the LISA group, to go and make an assessment of the project's viability, and if necessary, decide how to divide up the team.

Instead of recommending the dismantling of the project, Larry Tesler became another big supporter, encouraged by the team's mockups. He became the new head of the project on May 1st of 1991. In order to convince the board of directors of the Newton's value (and continue the expensive project), Tesler instructed the team to create an interactive demo for the board of directors in one month, to be shown at the June 1st board meeting.

The actual technology was not ready, but the engineers were able to create an interactive HyperCard stack that would show the principles they wanted in the new machine. Steve Capps rigged up a LCD display attached to a Mac running the hypercard stack, and attached a touch sensitive film to the display to allow it to act as a mouse. The demo showed a user's scribbles being recognized as text, interpreted as a command and then acted on. It also illustrated the new paradigm of the Newton. Unlike the Macintosh before it, the Newton would use a notepad metaphor instead of a desktop. A user would tear off a piece of paper, and write notes or commands on it.

John Sculley was shown the demo before the board-members were, and he was instantly enamored with the idea. He was finally confident that the Newton could fulfill some of the goals that he outlined for the Knowledge Navigator. The board was equally impressed, and assigned more staff to the project to begin work on a marketable project.

John Sculley set a deadline for a finished product, one year to the date. The team would have to be finished on June 1st, 1992, and would have to make their device cost less than $1,500.

The Apple CEO also wanted the Newton to be a joint effort between several companies. He recruited Sharp to help with the manufacturing of the devices (and eventually allowed the company to produce a Sharp-branded Newton), and several telephone companies to provide communications services to the device.

The group set to work creating the Newton, fearful that they would not have enough time to complete a machine that met Sculley's parameters. Larry Tesler decided that the Newton would retain its large format. The engineers of the project, led by Steve Capps (former Macintosh developer) and marketing director Michael Tchao wanted a smaller, more affordable device that would fit in the palm of the hand.

Despite the disagreement, the team continued developing the first Newton prototype, dubbed Cadillac. The device scrapped the Hobbit-based design after AT&T demanded a significant investment to continue producing the chip. The new CPU of the Newton would be from a 60% Apple owned company -- Advanced RISC Machines. The ARM was cheaper than the Hobbits, and dramatically faster. The new Newton would be capable of processing handwritten notes with ease.

By August of 1991, it was clear to the entire staff that Cadillac would not be ready by the time John Sculley wanted it at the price he wanted. Larry Tesler relented, and started the Junior project, the project that would eventually yield the MessagePad. The group continued developing Cadillac, hoping that it would be ready after Junior's introduction.

The Junior prototypes were about as large as an index card. A monochrome LCD display replaced the grayscale display on Cadillac, and the machine would use ordinary double a batteries instead of the custom battery packs, further reducing its price.

The most important element of the Newton was its software, and it was not progressing according to schedule. Newton OS was a very advanced system, featuring full multitasking. Instead of a normal file system, it worked with flat file databases, called soups. Every application could access every soup, and use their data. An outliner could access the date book, a notepad could access the address book, etc. The software that was bogging down the project was the programming language used for apps on the Newton, Ralph (named for the author of the Invisible Man). Ralph was to be a completely new programming language that was object oriented, and very easy to develop for. Unfortunately, the language was so advanced and different that many of the programmers did not understand it and could not develop effectively in it. As a result, all the programs written in it were slow, a problem for consumer who expected instantaneous responses from consumer electronic devices.

As time went on, it became increasingly clear that Cadillac and Ralph would not be ready by the release date. The group abandoned the language, and started using C instead. The Cadillac was shelved indefinitely. Now, all the group's efforts would be directed towards Junior. Apple also decided to stop developing its own handwriting recognition software in favor of Calligrapher (now sold as a Pocket PC app) from a small Muscovite software publisher.

Newton made the rounds at computer shows, and never failed to impress the fellow presenters. Apple even took the device to CES, an event rarely frequented by computer manufacturers.

The most important demonstration of the Newton would come in December. Apple booked a nightclub in Las Vegas (with Wayne Newton as entertainment) to present the Newton to the press. This was the first time an actual Newton would be shown to the public, and the entire group was atwitter with worry over the demonstration.

All the demonstrations went through perfectly, except for the last one. Steve Capps demonstrated the shape and handwriting recognition, and then sent a fax (probably the most impressive feature in the eyes of the journalists). The last demo was led by marketing guru, Michael Tchao. He would show two Newton's exchange information wirelessly over infrared, science fiction in the eyes of many there. It failed, though the audience hardly noticed.

After the show, the journalists all crowded around the developers shouting out questions about the availability of the device. All the participants were happy with their performance, except for Michael Tchao. He tried the exchange once more, and was successful.

By May of 1992, the developers had an alpha version of the Newton OS available, (all the features that would be included in the shipping version were there), but it was clear that the group could not meet the looming deadline. The group completed seven months later, in July of 1992, and the Newton shipped on August 3rd, 1993.

Re:Karma Whore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706657)

Karma is a scoring system on Slashdot meant to reward "good" posting and punish "bad" posting. The goal is that people who repeatedly post offensive, offtopic, or otherwise unwanted messages will be punished with a lower visibility of their messages, and those who post informative, insightful, or otherwise desirable messages are rewarded with a higher visibility. Karma whores are individuals, or messages themselves, that attempt to receive feedback in the form of karma points. Often these will be needless information (such as a link to a wikipedia article relevant to the subject being discussed), or a message of a political nature that is in synch with the "groupthink" so that it will be moderated upwards by people who agree with the stance expressed in the message.


Or just posting the article text with your user account, because you want karma.

THE ARTICLE IS A LITTLE SLUGGISH! [wikipedia.org]

codename "Ralph", author of the Invisible Man (1)

quinto2000 (211211) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706662)

Actually I assume that if we're talking about Ralph Ellison, the book in question would be "Invisible Man," not "The Invisible Man." An important distinction since "The Invisible Man" is a completely different book written by H.G. Wells.

Replacement for keyboards (5, Insightful)

yardbird (165009) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706431)

He was intrigued with the idea of scrapping the keyboard. The fact that most computers used a QWERTY keyboard was a mere fluke, he thought. Steve thought that a more natural method of input would take hold, like handwriting or speech.

Handwriting: vastly slower than typing, even for crummy typists like me.

Speech: unusable except in private.

Does anyone see anything replacing keyboards anytime soon?

Re:Replacement for keyboards (1)

th3space (531154) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706918)

Does anyone see anything replacing keyboards anytime soon?

Monkeys...or pidgeons. Chances are, they'll have a far less tenuous grasp on the written word than do the youth of today. Not to mention the fact that they'll work for next to nothing...

Outliner (2, Interesting)

Sabah Arif (830070) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706436)

I am a Newton user (MP130), and my favorite feature is being able to create ink outlines. No other PDA that I know of includes the functionality out of the box.

still in use (2, Interesting)

Therlin (126989) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706461)

Have you ever gone to a Disney theme park and been asked to take a survey? The handheld they use to write down your answer is a Newton.

Apple has a contract to supply Disney with them until 2010. ..... or so have I been told by an Apple higher up.

What about the guy who got murdered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706545)

One of the developers was murdered? Some Asian guy. I forgot the details.

DOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706551)

When he joined Apple he was happy that he 'was not going to make DOS clones for the rest of my life.

Well, I guess he can come back to PC's now. Very few people use DOS anymore

informaTive cockCock (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706565)

steadily fucki86 if you move a table

There's Still Active Development! (2, Informative)

nathos (655477) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706583)

There's still some cool new software & drivers being released, including: For lots of other updated Newton info, check out the Newton FAQ [chuma.org] or WikiWikiNewt [unna.org].

Site offline (1)

Varun Soundararajan (744929) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706710)

We're just too dern'd popular these days...
Please thank slashdot!!
We've had to take the site offline for some maintinence.
Thats expected!!!
Please bear with us and come back soon.
i came back to your site as soon as (1 seconds later). Still found the same.
One more qn: Is this site hosted on the same MAC PDA?

But they stole it! (1)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706696)

Everybody knows the Newton was really the work of DEC [elook.org], who were the true innovators with their Leibnitz line of handhelds.

The Leibnitz never caught on, due to the unique marketing approach that was synonymous with Digital.

:-}

Newtons as giveaways (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706747)

I posted this on another topic a little while back, but I was working in Apple Support when the Newton was first released. We knew it was a dead duck when corporate started giving them away as internal "attaboy" prizes less than three months after it shipped.

The Newton made ARM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12706757)

The first Newton was just about the first non-Acorn product to use an ARM processor - the ARM610 - and if it hadn't been for Apple's interest ARM-the-company might never have existed. ARM's three initial investors were Acorn, VLSI (who made the chips) and Apple.

I have a dead Newton on my bookshelf in front of me. It is great but flawed. For one thing it is too big for my hands; it's uncomfortably wide. OK my hands are maybe smaller than an average man's, but not by much.

The handwriting recognition was quite impressive, but it made you realise that it needs to be really very good to be useable. It takes so much time to go back and make corrections that it needs to get around 99% of words right. I doubt that my Newton got above 80%.

The thing that I most miss, though, was the shape-recognition. You can draw a freehand box or a circle and it will "square it up" (or circle it up). Although the drawing functions weren't very sophisticated I considered this to be the start of something great, and I'm really disappointed to see that it hasn't caught on. In fact I have even thought about buying myself a tablet and seeing if I could code something myself - maybe an Inkscape extension?

Site Offline (1)

Varun Soundararajan (744929) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706768)

We're just too dern'd popular these days...
Please thank slashdot!!
We've had to take the site offline for some maintinence.
Thats expected!!!
Please bear with us and come back soon.
i came back to your site as soon as (1 seconds later). Still found the same.
One more qn: Is this site hosted on the same MAC PDA?

but, but.... (1)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 8 years ago | (#12706938)

The Newton was the preferred PDA of Steven Seagal's character in Under Siege 2: Dark Territory!
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