I own a Newton.
You know, one of those funny little black portable Apple thingies
that were launched in 1993 as the greatest thing since sliced bread, that
became available incredibly cheaply from a number of vendors who just
couldn't get rid of the damn things, and which then got Steved just as
the market was taking off. www.newton.apple.com no longer
even exists. Charming.
(Strictly speaking, I should say that I own a MessagePad. A MessagePad 100,
at that. Well, an upgraded original MessagePad, anyway.
But no-one cares, least of all you. Unless, of course,
you're a raving
Acorn fanatic, in which case the
Newton offered the only chance
for mass-market acceptance of the ARM processor.)
Why do I own a Newton? Good question. (It was cheap, and I was stupid.) What can I do with it? Okay, what
did I once do with it, back when I switched it on, back when I knew where I'd last put it? So, here's a list of
things I used to use my Newton for:
- Playing games in lectures when I would otherwise have fallen asleep.
I recommend 'Incoming' - the pen interface is ideal for playing this
clone of the classic 'Missile Command'.
- Organising my television viewing, back when I watched television.
This involved carefully entering a
reminder, and getting reminded about it several days after the programme had
been broadcast, when I next had occasion to turn the Newton on.
- Reading books. Download all those old classics you never got around to
reading - until now. I read
Machiavelli's The Prince this
way - or tried to. No-one pays a scant bit of attention if you read a
- as a rather neat graphical calculator. This had potential.
- Uh... that's it. Oh, hang on, there's lending it to friends for months
on end because they'd never seen one and they thought it was cool. That was
back before all my friends got PalmPilots, of course.
And a list of things the Newton is completely useless for:
- Reading my handwriting. Reading anyone's handwriting, for that matter.
It was far easier to use the pop-up on-screen keyboard and be done with it.
The newer Newtons
may be better at reading my handwriting, but that doesn't mean that
I'm going to buy one off eBay. Mind you, the Newton with the built-in keyboard got round that problem.
- Organising my life. The To-Do list was useless, since it makes no
distinction between general resolutions that Need To Be Done Sometime, things
that Need to Be Done Then, and things that Needed to Be Done but Haven't Been.
It stuck them all in as things that Have or Haven't Been Done That Week.
As if I work in weeks.
- Telephone dialling. There is no way on earth it would work reliably with
the local provider of university dial-out lines.
- Communicating. I still don't know anyone else who owns one. So much for beaming.
I happened to luck out in already owning a Zoom modem, with the Rockwell
chipset that the Newton requires, and a StyleWriter that it worked straight out
of the box with, but they worked rather better with
that I bought them for in the first place and which I no longer use either.
- Playing MP3s. No
headphone socket. No battery life. No 2000-series transfer port.
Of course, I haven't mentioned the continual out-of-memory errors and the
ever-decreasing 'rechargeable' battery life. Until now.
But I'll probably stick with it, simply because I can't find anyone to sell it to. It's classier than the original Gameboy (play
patience anywhere without dropping the cards),
a chess program might appear sometime (but not written in
NewtonScript - it needs a C compiler), and I keep reminding myself
that the original 128K Mac was useless, too.
Even more useless than the Lisa that preceded it, in fact. And then I remember
that no-one ever did anything useful with a 128K Mac, and that it's only
useful these days as a doorstop. And the Newton, though too big and heavy to fit
comfortably in a pocket, is not big enough or heavy enough to do that.
Perhaps, one day, if I find where I put it, I'll be able to sell it as an antique to some sucker on eBay. Any offers?
this page last updated 21 October 2002