Feeds

Before the iPad, there was the Newton

MessagePad 120 – it didn't suck

Mobile application security vulnerability report

This Old Box If any old-tech devotees are more rabid than Amiga amigos, the Newtonians are. So, for those lovers of Apple's pioneering handheld, here's an up-close-and-personal visual caressing of the Newton MessagePad 120, circa 1995.

Newton MessagePad 120 - logo

The MessagePad 120 had the longest lifespan of any device based on Apple's Newton platform: from its October 1994 release in Germany (January 1995 in the US) until June 1996. The 120 thus deserves the respect of those of us who remember that exceptional platform, one that improved over time — but not enough to overcome its rough beginnings

The 120 was also the first MessagePad to be upgraded to Newton OS 2.0 (up from 1.3), in late 1995. This significant improvement over the first OS's iterations was sadly ignored by most of the gadget-buying populace, whose minds had already been made up by the media Scheiße-storm over the shortcomings of the original Newton OS.

Newton MessagePad 120 - closed

(click to enlarge)

All in all, the Newton platform made it through seven Apple hardware iterations, from the original Newton, which made its debut at Macworld Boston in 1993 where it begat long lines of fevered fanbois with checkbooks in hand, to the MessagePad 2100, which was taken off life support by Steve Jobs in February 1998.

The Newton platform also took a hallucinatory side trip in the spring of 1997 in the guise of the eMate 300, a Newton-powered laptop aimed at the education market. In this observer's opinion — and I tested it upon its release — the less said about that Giger-inspired oddity, the better.

As a card-carrying fanboi, I owned an original Newton — now referred to as the OMP, for "Original MessagePad" — but try as I might, I never could bend that little thing to my will. My OMP ended its life — quite literally — as a doorstop in a thickly carpeted office conference room.

When disappointed, we fanbois can be oh, so cruel — but we were won over by Newton OS 2.0 and the MessagePad 120.

Like the OMP, the MessagePad 120 was powered by a 20MHz ARM 610, but it had the advantage of being upgraded to OS 2.0 in late 1995, an OS that was was light years ahead of the earlier Newton's publicly shamed first iteration.

Newton MessagePad 120 - open

(click to enlarge)

Powered by OS 2.0, the MessagePad hit its stride in the much more powerful, 162MHz StrongArm-based 2000-series 'Pads of 1997, codenamed "Q" — but whether the 2000 and 2100 achieved that appellation in honor of Star Trek's multidimensional tickster, James Bond's parts supplier, or a cheesy 1982 movie is lost to history.

Equipped with OS 2.0, the MessagePad 120 was a welcome traveling companion, weighing in at one pound (0.45kg), and measuring 8 by 4 by 1.2 inches (20.3 by 10.2 by 3 cm).

Its black-and-white display — well, black-and-greenish-gray, actually — was far from the iPhone 4's much-vaunted "retina display". It had a resolution of a mere 320-by-240 pixels, wasn't back-lit, and since it wasn't grayscale, which would have allowed for anti-aliasing, individual pixels were clearly visible.

But we're not here to cavil, but to celebrate on old friend — although one that did have a thoroughly annoying tendency to whine. Come along with me through the next few pages for a visual celebration of the pioneering PDA that coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
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
Seventh-gen SPARC silicon will accelerate Oracle databases
Uncle Larry's mutually-optimised stack to become clearer in August
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.