Wireless Newton Technology Goes To Work
by David MacNeill

From On The Go Magazine, September 8, 1993

©Copyright 1993 David MacNeill

The tiny Newton modem screeched out a carrier to my cellular flip phone’s RJ11 adapter, but I could barely hear it over the roar of I5 traffic and the convertible’s 75mph wind blast. In a few moments I logged on to NewtonMail, sent the message Sarah had beamed to me this morning, and downloaded an itinerary for my Seybold presentation. Tapping out a short reply--Leslie’s driving has a deleterious effect on my handwriting--I fired the message through the airwaves to Diane’s mailbox. Better fax a room request to the King George for the show, I thought; two minutes later it was done. At times like this I don't feel too bad about the daily 45 minute commute from Isleton--I’m taking care of business.

Advertising Meets Reality
There’s been a lot of ink lately about personal digital assistants and wireless links changing the way we work and communicate. As a contract Newton trainer for Apple Computer’s PIE (Personal Interactive Electronics) division, I play a part in selling this particular dream. Fortunately, I can sleep at night, because this dream really works.
The company I work for, the IconoClass Training Center in Sacramento, has been using Newton MessagePads and faxmodems for several months. They have rapidly become indispensable to our way of doing business. Besides the obvious time and contact management functions, Newton’s wireless beaming technology has become our standard method of sharing notes, agendas, sketches, and an occasional joke at staff meetings. We beam each other client data, industry contacts, and other indispensable scraps of information, spontaneously. It’s a fast, easy, and fun addition to our office culture. (My sister in St. Louis wants to buy Newtons for her staff so she can secretly beam prompts to her perpetually unprepared boss at meetings!)

Email for Both Sides of Your Brain
The best communication system is the one that actually gets used by everyone. In our beta testing of Apple’s NewtonMail service, we’ve found the speed and ease of use to be a real business advantage. NewtonMail is a total integration of all Newton data types, including digital ink, spline-object graphics, and recognized text. It makes conventional text-only email look quaint--like a late-70s Apple IIe running AppleWorks on a monitor festooned with faded pink flower stickers.

Cut the Cord
To keep in touch when we’re on the road we use Motorola’s Digital Personal Communicator flip-phones and their Portable Cellular Connection interface. The PCC is a small, inexpensive battery-powered box about the size of a flip-phone that connects to standard RJ11 devices, such as a Newton or PowerBook faxmodem. You simply make your modem or fax call as usual through your PDA or computer, and the rest is automatic. The only problems we have is when we roam to another service area mid-transmission, so a little planning helps.

Newt On!
If all this sounds like more tradeshow evangelism from the Digital Wireless Electronically Enhanced Believers (DWEEBs,) it’s a fair cop. But consider how these technologies and intelligent tools could help you do your job better, today. Or, most importantly, how your next job might very well depend on them.

David MacNeill is a computer teacher and marketing guru for the IconoClass in Sacramento, a Macintosh, Windows, and Newton training center: 916-443-2527.