Feeds

Before the iPad, there was the Newton

MessagePad 120 – it didn't suck

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Software and soup

I blush to admit that I'm a hardware geek — but hardware exists to power software, so I need to give Newton apps a nod. There are plenty of places to take deep dives into Newtonian software, but here's a peek at a few items on my MessagePad 120, circa 1995 — all images actual size, by the way.

Oh, and one quick note: the display in these photos isn't discolored — that's merely the shadow of my camera. And, by the way, I shot all the photos for this story using a Nikon D90 with a 105mm Micro-Nikkor lens.

Newton MessagePad 120 - application icons screenshot

If you have a modern smartphone, take a look at its icons, and see if they bear any resemblance to these on the MessagePad 120. Sure, yours are far more finely detailed and attractively multicolored, but as Zep knew, the song remains the same.

Newton MessagePad 120 - information-card screenshot

Contact information — which was entered with the MessagePad's stylus using either Newton 2.0's improved handwriting recognition or by means of a soft keyboard — could be displayed in one of six different "business card" formats.

All of the data entered into a Newton device was stored not in files, but in databases known as "soups". Data in soups could be shared among all applications — an advanced concept at the time, and one which made sharing data among apps such as calendars and contacts easy and transparent, but which made discrete file-based development a bit of a hassle.

This latter drawback was alleviated somewhat in Newton OS 2.0, which introduced a less-soupy concept called Virtual Binary Objects that added file-like capabilities.

Newton MessagePad 120 - card-choice screenshot

Choosing a business-card style, as when entering all other types of contact information, popped open a separate entry window. In this example, you'd simply tap your favorite style (which can vary contact-to-contact) then tap the X-box — not Xbox — to close the entry window.

Note, by the way, that the date on my MessagePad 120 is July 2001. The poor old thing can't handle 2010, and pops back to 1976 when you try to bring its time and date settings into the present. Sigh...

Newton MessagePad 120 - calculator screenshot

Apple's bundled Calculator app was simplicity itself, but if you needed more functions you had a wealth of third-party choices, including specialized calculators for tax preparers, doctors, financial folks, and more.

Newton MessagePad 120 - 'Bombs Away' game screenshot

Yes, dozen of simple games were available for the MessagePad, such as 'Bombs Away', a rather transparent takeoff on the arcade game Missile Command. And no, the MessagePad 120 couldn't play Crysis.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Next page: Take it off!

More from The Register

next story
Xperia Z3: Crikey, Sony – ANOTHER flagship phondleslab?
The Fourth Amendment... and it IS better
Don't wait for that big iPad, order a NEXUS 9 instead, industry little bird says
Google said to debut next big slab, Android L ahead of Apple event
Microsoft to enter the STRUGGLE of the HUMAN WRIST
It's not just a thumb war, it's total digit war
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Netscape Navigator - the browser that started it all - turns 20
It was 20 years ago today, Marc Andreeesen taught the band to play
A drone of one's own: Reg buyers' guide for UAV fanciers
Hardware: Check. Software: Huh? Licence: Licence...?
The Apple launch AS IT HAPPENED: Totally SERIOUS coverage, not for haters
Fandroids, Windows Phone fringe-oids – you wouldn't understand
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.