Just as I’m about to retire my old Newton, just as I’m exporting the contacts and calendar entries, I rediscovered why the Newton was — and still is — the best PDA ever. The Newton had a rough start back in the early 90s when the first model was released. I’ve never used an older model, but it’s clear that the handwriting recognition was bad enough to be ridiculed in comics and The Simpsons. As funny as all that is, the Newton did improve. By the time I bought my Newton Message Pad 2000 in 1997, handwriting recognition was good enough that the average person took it for granted.
How can a five year old computer be relevant today?
The Newton had a large, high resolution screen, great handwriting recognition, and excellent PIM applications. Its large screen made it too big to fit in a pocket, but also made it useful for real work. The included word processor, web browser, and email application all worked well — well enough that the Newton could easily replace a laptop.
There are many many theories about why the Newton was discontinued in 1998. It’s a passionate issue for Newton users who still talk about a Newton rebirth, some time. The fact is that commercial software development mostly stopped after the discontinuation announcement. The very active user community took up most of the slack, and the web abounds with Newton software and information today.
When my boss told me I was getting a new Palm device, I accepted it. Not only do I never refuse free stuff, but I also recognized that I’d eventually have to replace my Newt. So I went to the web to figure out how to export all my Newton data to my new Palm. And soon I was checking out all the new developments since I last looked. I found a WiFi driver, a few extra pieces of software, and checked in on the old Newton community.
What will I do?
By now, I have a fast laptop and the Newton isn’t laptop replacement it once was. I’ll use the Palm, but what I really want is a new Newton. I want something that could replace my laptop. I want a one pound computer that does it all as well as the Newton did in its time.