Feeds

Apple's first handheld: the Newton MessagePad

Mobile application security vulnerability report

The MessagePad's unique selling point was its ability to capture handwriting onto its touch-sensitive screen using a stylus - which some fans dubbed 'the carpenter's knife'.

Apple_messagepad_box
The MessagePad 110 box

Apple's handwriting recognition technology was called Calligrapher. While quite advanced for its time, it was frequently lampooned by the media for its constant inability to recognise handwriting, especially in cursive form.

Even The Simpsons got in on the joke, sketching out a scene where a MessagePad was used to store the memo "Beat up Martin", but which was interpreted as "Eat up Martha". The Doonesbury comic strip also poked fun at the MessagePad's iffy handwriting recognition as well, much to the annoyance of Apple.

In an everyday setting, the MessagePad was seen as a pretty cutting edge device, though. For example, the user could write "Dinner with Laura tomorrow" onto its screen and then tap on the Assist button, which would - depending on Newton's interpretation of the text - open a meeting slip already completed and showing the last-accessed person named Laura, tomorrow's date and the time allocated to the meeting.

The MessagePad had its rivals, of course. Perhaps the most notable was the Palm Pilot, which used a different, character-by-character text recognition technology that, although more difficult to learn, proved to be more accurate at recognising user's input.

Doonsbury does the MessagePad - image courtesy GoComics.com
The MessagePad lampooned by Gary Trudeau

Amazingly, a Gary Trudeau cartoon was incorporated as an Easter Egg into Newton OS 2.0.

The MessagePad was still hugely successful for Apple though, with around seven models of the handset developed between 1993 and 1998, together with several different versions of the Newton OS as well, from 1.0 to 2.1.

The Newton OS had many strings to its bow, including fax and email capabilities. The Notes application allowed users to store information such as memos, checklists or to-do lists. Although initially fairly basic, Newton OS 2.0 was refined to allow users to bullet-point notes and develop "trees" - a string of related memos.

Sharp ExpertPad
Newton licensed: Sharp's ExpertPad

Names was developed for storing contact details. A nice feature, present even on most basic mobile phones today, was that Newton would automatically make the entry of a birthday a recurring event, ensuring you never had an excuse to forget that gift.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Report: American tech firms charge Britons a thumping nationality tax
Without representation, too. Time for a Boston (Lincs) Macbook Party?
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Apple gets patent for WRIST-PUTER: iTime for a smartwatch
It does everything a smartwatch should do ... but Apple owns it
For Lenovo US, 8-inch Windows tablets are DEAD – long live 8-inch Windows tablets
Reports it's killing off smaller slabs are greatly exaggerated
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.