The Apple Newton MessagePad 100
|Operating system||Newton OS|
|CPU||ARM 610 RISC|
The MessagePad was the first series of personal digital assistant devices developed by Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) for the Newton platform in 1993. Some electronic engineering and the manufacture of Apple's MessagePad devices was done in Japan by the Sharp Corporation. The devices were based on the ARM 610 RISC processor and all featured handwriting recognition software and were developed and marketed by Apple. The devices ran the Newton OS.
With the MessagePad 120 with Newton OS 2.0, the Newton Keyboard by Apple became available, which can also be used via the dongle on Newton devices with a Newton InterConnect port, most notably the Apple MessagePad 2000/2100 series, as well as the Apple eMate 300.
Newton devices featuring Newton OS 2.1 or higher can be used with the screen turned horizontally ("landscape") as well as vertically ("portrait"). A change of a setting instantly rotates the contents of the display by 90, 180 or 270 degrees. Handwriting recognition still works properly with the display rotated, although display calibration is needed when rotation in any direction is used for the first time or when the Newton device is reset.
In initial versions (Newton OS 1.x) the handwriting recognition gave extremely mixed results for users and was sometimes inaccurate. The original handwriting recognition engine was called Calligrapher, and was licensed from a Russian company called Paragraph International. Calligrapher's design was quite sophisticated; it attempted to learn the user's natural handwriting, using a database of known words to make guesses as to what the user was writing, and could interpret writing anywhere on the screen, whether hand-printed, in cursive, or a mix of the two. By contrast, Palm Pilot's Graffiti had a less sophisticated design than Calligrapher, but was sometimes found to be more accurate and precise due to its reliance on a fixed, predefined stroke alphabet. The stroke alphabet used letter shapes which resembled standard handwriting, but which were modified to be both simple and very easy to differentiate. Palm Computing also released two versions of Graffiti for Newton devices. Ironically, the Newton version sometimes performed better and could also show strokes as they were being written as input was done on the display itself, rather than on a silkscreen area.
Later releases of the Newton operating system retained the original recognizer for compatibility, but added a hand-printed-text-only (not cursive) recognizer, called "Rosetta", which was developed by Apple, included in version 2.0 of the Newton operating system, and refined in Newton 2.1. Rosetta is generally considered a significant improvement and many reviewers, testers, and most users consider the Newton 2.1 handwriting recognition software better than any of the alternatives even 10 years after it was introduced. Recognition and computation of handwritten horizontal and vertical formulas such as "1 + 2 =" was also under development but never released. However, users wrote similar programs which could evaluate mathematical formulas using the Newton OS Intelligent Assistant, a unique part of every Newton device.
A vital feature of the Newton handwriting recognition system is the modeless error correction. That is, correction done in situ without using a separate window or widget, using a minimum of gestures. If a word is recognized improperly, the user could double-tap the word and a list of alternatives would pop up in a menu under the stylus. Most of the time, the correct word will be in the list. If not, a button at the bottom of the list allows the user to edit individual characters in that word. Other pen gestures could do such things as transpose letters (also in situ). The correction popup also allowed the user to revert to the original, un-recognized letter shapes - this would be useful in note-taking scenarios if there was insufficient time to make corrections immediately. To conserve memory and storage space, alternative recognition hypotheses would not be saved indefinitely. If the user returned to a note a week later, for example, they would only see the best match. Error correction in many current handwriting systems provides such functionality but adds more steps to the process, greatly increasing the interruption to a user's workflow that a given correction requires.
Text could also be entered by tapping with the stylus on a small on-screen pop-up QWERTY virtual keyboard, although more layouts were developed by users. Newton devices could also accept free-hand "Sketches", "Shapes", and "Ink Text", much like a desktop computer graphics tablet. With "Shapes", Newton could recognize that the user was attempting to draw a circle, a line, a polygon, etc, and it would clean them up into perfect vector representations (with modifiable control points and defined vertices) of what the user was attempting to draw. "Shapes" and "Sketches" could be scaled or deformed once drawn. "Ink text" captured the user's free-hand writing but allowed it to be treated somewhat like recognized text when manipulating for later editing purposes ("ink text" supported word wrap, could be formatted to be bold, italic, etc). At any time a user could also direct their Newton device to recognize selected "ink text" and turn it into recognized text (deferred recognition). A Newton note (or the notes attached to each contact in Names and each Dates calendar or to-do event) could contain any mix of interleaved text, Ink Text, Shapes, and Sketches.
The MessagePad 100 series of devices used the Macintosh-standard serial ports—round Mini-DIN 8 connectors. The MessagePad 2000/2100 models (as well as the eMate 300) have a small, proprietary Newton InterConnect port. However, the development of the Newton hardware/software platform was canceled by Steve Jobs on February 27, 1998, so the InterConnect port, while itself very advanced, can only be used to connect a serial dongle. A prototype multi-purpose InterConnect device containing serial, audio in, audio out, and other ports was also discovered. In addition, all Newton devices have infrared connectivity, initially only the Sharp ASK protocol, but later also IrDA, though the Sharp ASK protocol was kept in for compatibility reasons. Unlike the Palm Pilot, all Newton devices are equipped with a standard PC Card expansion slot (two on the 2000/2100). This allows native modem and even Ethernet connectivity; Newton users have also written drivers for 802.11b wireless networking cards and ATA-type flash memory cards (including the popular CompactFlash format), as well as for Bluetooth cards. Newton can also dial a phone number through the built-in speaker of the Newton device by simply holding a telephone handset up to the speaker and transmitting the appropriate tones. Fax and printing support is also built in at the operating system level, although it requires peripherals such as parallel adapters, PCMCIA cards, or serial modems, the most notable of which is the lightweight Newton Fax Modem released by Apple in 1993. It is powered by 2 AA batteries, and can also be used with a power adapter. It provides data transfer at 2400 bps, and can also send and receive fax messages at 9600 and 4800 bps respectively.
The original Apple MessagePad and MessagePad 100 used four AAA batteries. They were eventually replaced by AA batteries with the release of the Apple MessagePad 110.
The use of 4 AA NiCd (MessagePad 110, 120 and 130) and 4x AA NiMH cells (MP2x00 series, eMate 300) give a runtime of up to 30 hours (MP2100 with two 20 MB Linear Flash memory PC Cards, no backlight usage) and up to 24 hours with backlight on. While adding more weight to the handheld Newton devices than AAA batteries or custom battery packs, the choice of an easily replaceable/rechargeable cell format gives the user a still unsurpassed runtime and flexibility of power supply. This, together with the flash memory used as internal storage starting with the Apple MessagePad 120 (if all cells lost their power, no data was lost due to the non-volatility of this storage), gave birth to the slogan "Newton never dies, it only gets new batteries".
The Apple MessagePad 2000/2100, with a vastly improved handwriting recognition system, 162 MHz StrongARM SA-110 RISC processor, Newton OS 2.1, and a better, clearer, backlit screen, attracted critical plaudits.
Apple and third parties marketed several "wallets" (cases) for the handheld Newton devices, which would hold them securely along with the owner's credit cards, driver's license, business cards, and cash. Most also protected the LCD screen.
The original Apple MessagePad and MessagePad 100 were limited by the very short lifetime of their inadequate AAA batteries.
Critics also panned the handwriting recognition that was available in the debut models, which had been trumpeted in the Newton's marketing campaign. It was this problem that was skewered in the Doonesbury comic strips and the animated television series The Simpsons. Not even the word 'freckles' was in the dictionary, though the user could add it themselves. The real case was that the advanced Calligrapher handwriting recognition software needed to adjust to the user's handwriting; this process could take anywhere from two weeks to two months.
Another factor which limited the early Newton devices' appeal was that desktop connectivity was not included in the basic retail package, a problem that was later solved with 2.x Newton devices - these were bundled with a serial cable and the appropriate Newton Connection Utilities software.
Later versions of Newton OS offered improved handwriting recognition, quite possibly a leading reason for the continued popularity of the devices among Newton users. Even given the age of the hardware and software, Newtons still demand a sale price on the used market far greater than that of comparatively aged PDAs produced by other companies. In 2006 CNET compared an Apple MessagePad 2000 to a Samsung Q1, and the Newton was declared better. In 2009, CNET compared an Apple MessagePad 2000 to an iPhone, and the Newton was still declared better.
|Device||Model No.||Processor||Memory||Display||Newton OS Version||Newton OS languages||Ports||PCMCIA||Power||Weight & Dimensions||Introduced||Discontinued||Code Name|
|OMP (Original Newton MessagePad)||H1000||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB ROM, 640kB RAM||336 x 240 (B&W)||1.0 to 1.05, or 1.10 to 1.11||English or German||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AAA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||0.41 kg, 18.42 cm H x 11.43 cm W x 1.91 cm D||August 3, 1993 in the US, December 1993 in Germany||March 1994||Junior|
|Sharp ExpertPad PI-7000||?||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB ROM, 640kB RAM||336 x 240 (B&W)||1.0 to 1.05, or 1.10 to 1.11||English or Japanese||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AAA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||182mm x 112mm x 28mm (with screen lid open)||August 3, 1993 in the US, ? in Japan||March 1994||?|
|Apple MessagePad 100||H1000||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB ROM, 640kB RAM||336 x 240 (B&W)||1.3||English, German or French||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AAA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||0.41 kg, 18.42 cm H x 11.43 cm W x 1.91 cm D||March 1994||April 1995||?|
|Apple MessagePad 110||?||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB ROM, 1MB RAM||320 x 240 (B&W)||1.2 or 1.3||English or French||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||0.45 kg, 20.32 cm H x 10.16 cm W x 3 cm D||March 1994||April 1995||Lindy|
|Sharp ExpertPad PI-7100||?||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB ROM, 640kB RAM||336 x 240 (B&W)||1.3||English or Japanese||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AAA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||182mm x 112mm x 28mm (with screen lid open)||April 1994||late 1994||?|
|Apple MessagePad 120||H0131||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB (OS 1.3) or 8MB (OS 2.0) ROM, 687kB RAM, 0.5 or 1.5MB Flash memory||320 x 240 (B&W)||1.3 or 2.0||English, German or French||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||0.45 kg, 20.32 cm H x 10.16 cm W x 3 cm D||October 1994 in Germany, January 1995 in the US||June 1996||Gelato|
|Digital Ocean Tarpon||?||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB (OS 1.3) or 8MB (OS 2.0) ROM, 687kB RAM, Flash memory||320 x 240 (B&W)||1.3 or 2.0||English||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||10" x 4.5" x 2.5" (3 lbs. 3 oz.)||January 1995 in the US||?||?|
|Motorola Marco||?||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB (OS 1.3) ROM, 687kB RAM, Flash memory||320 x 240 (B&W)||1.3||English||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||?||January 1995 in the US||?||?|
|Harris SuperTech 2000||?||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||4MB (OS 1.3) ROM, 687kB RAM, Flash memory||320 x 240 (B&W)||1.3||English||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||?||August 1995 in the US||?||?|
|Digital Ocean Seahorse||?||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||8MB (OS 2.0) ROM, 687kB RAM, Flash memory||320 x 240 (B&W)||2.0||English||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||9.5" x 4.5" x 2.5" (48 oz.)||January 1996 in the US||?||?|
|Apple MessagePad 130||H0196||ARM 610 (20 MHz)||8MB ROM, 1.2MB RAM, 1.5MB Flash memory||320 x 240 (B&W) w/ backlight||2.0||English or German||RS422, LocalTalk & SHARP ASK Infrared||1 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiCd rechargeable or external power supply||0.45 kg, 20.32 cm H x 10.16 cm W x 3 cm D||March 1996||April 1997||Dante|
|Apple eMate 300||H0208||ARM 710a (25 MHz)||8MB ROM, 1MB RAM, 2MB Flash Memory, Expandable Internally to 2MB Random Access Memory and 4MB Flash Memory||480 x 320 greyscale (16 shades) w/ backlight||2.1 (2.2)||English||IrDA, headphone port, Interconnect port, LocalTalk, Audio I/O, Autodock||1 PCMCIA-slot I/II/III, 5v||NiMH battery pack (built-in) or external power supply||1.81 kg, 30.5 cm H x 29 cm W x 5.33 cm D||March 1997||February 1998||?|
|Apple MessagePad 2000||?||StrongARM SA-110 (162 MHz)||8MB ROM, 1MB RAM, 4MB Flash memory||480 x 320 greyscale (16 shades) w/ backlight||2.1||English||Dual-mode IR; IrDA & SHARP ASK Infrared, LocalTalk, Audio I/O, Autodock, Phone I/O||2 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiMH rechargeable or external power supply||0.64 kg, 21.1 cm H x 11.94 cm W x 2.79 cm D||March 1997||February 1998||Q|
|Apple MessagePad 2100||H0149||StrongARM SA-110 (162 MHz)||8MB ROM, 4MB RAM, 4MB Flash memory||480 x 320 greyscale (16 shades) w/ backlight||2.1||English or German||Dual-mode IR; IrDA & SHARP ASK Infrared, LocalTalk, Audio I/O, Autodock||2 PCMCIA-slot II, 5v or 12v||4 AA or NiMH rechargeable or external power supply||0.64 kg, 21.1 cm H x 11.94 cm W x 2.79 cm D||November 1997||February 1998||?|
Notes: The eMate 300 actually has ROM chips silked screened with 2.2 on them. Stephanie Mak on her website  discusses this: If one removes all patches to the eMate 300 (by replacing the ROM chip, and then putting in the original one again, as the eMate and the MessagePad 2000/2100 devices erase their memory completely after replacing the chip), the result will be the Newton OS saying that this is version 2.2.00. Also, the Original MessagePad and the MessagePad 100 share the same model number, as they only differ in the ROM chip version. (The OMP has OS versions 1.0 to 1.05, or 1.10 to 1.11, while the MP100 has 1.3 that can be upgraded with various patches.)
There were a number of projects that used the Newton as a portable information device in cultural settings such as museums. For example, Visible Interactive created a walking tour in San Francisco's Chinatown but the most significant effort took place in Malaysia at the Petronas Discovery Center, known as Petrosains.
In 1995, an exhibit design firm, DMCD Inc., was awarded the contract to design a new 100,000 square foot (9300 m²) science museum in the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. A major factor in the award was the concept that visitors would use a Newton device to access additional information, find out where they were in the museum, listen to audio, see animations, control robots and other media, and to bookmark information for printout at the end of the exhibit.
The device became known as the ARIF, a Malay word for "wise man" or "seer" and it was also an acronym for A Resourceful Informative Friend. Some 400 ARIFS were installed and over 300 are still in use today. The development of the ARIF system was extremely complex and required a team of hardware and software engineers, designers, and writers. ARIF is an ancestor of the PDA systems used in museums today and it boasted features that have not been attempted since.