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.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Next page: Take it off!

More from The Register

next story
4K-ing excellent TV is on its way ... in its own sweet time, natch
For decades Hollywood actually binned its 4K files. Doh!
Oi, Tim Cook. Apple Watch. I DARE you to tell me, IN PERSON, that it's secure
State attorney demands Apple CEO bows the knee to him
Apple's big bang: iPhone 6, ANOTHER iPhone 6 Plus and WATCH OUT
Let's >sigh< see what Cupertino has been up to for the past year
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Get your Indian Landfill Android One handsets - they're only SIXTY QUID
Cheap and deafening mobes for the subcontinental masses
Apple's SNEAKY plan: COPY ANDROID. Hello iPhone 6, Watch
Sizes, prices and all – but not for the wrist-o-puter
A SCORCHIO fatboy SSD: Samsung SSD850 PRO 3D V-NAND
4Gb/s speeds on a consumer drive, anyone?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.