From Pen Computing Magazine #24, October 1998

Newton Notes

Ours, not mine

©Copyright 1998 David MacNeill

Your response to my call for support in the last issue has been overwhelmingly in favor of continuing Newton Notes. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is for me to read how important this is to all of you. It has made me realize that this column is ours, not mine.

In that spirit, I’d like to excerpt here some of your email messages. The Newton spirit here is contagious.

I almost cried after a particularly poignant moment at a convention a couple of months ago. I had read about Windows CE in PCM and in other magazines. I hoped it would at least be half-decent in a clunky MS kind of way. Never, of course, contemplating a change, but of perhaps being able to recommend one to some poor soul. A Casio employee, one of the main Japanese development engineers, demonstrated the machine to me and allowed me to play with it. I tried to make a pen note, enter an appointment, add a name; I was appalled for reasons I don’t think I have to explain to you. I whipped out my Newton MP130 and said "Let me show you a real PDA." He was astonished; it was his first encounter with a Newton (the arrogance of these companies!). I walked him through various functions and he started raving about how it was "too big, but so great, so great--I want one!" Then he caught himself and became profoundly embarrassed and withdrawn. -Steven Paiano

As for my Newt, an upgraded MP2K, I’m as pleased with it today as I was the day it was purchased. It still serves as the best tool to collect and manage all my diverse bits of personal information. -Scott J. Little

I have been a Newton user for about two years since my son-in-law showed me his for his medical residency at University of Minnesota. I am a vascular surgeon and have still found this the best for my purposes. I am not in the office much and in the operating room much more. The ability to have the info and move around is important. -Steve Dosick

I own an upgraded MP2K that I purchased a little over a year ago thanks, in large part, to your recommendations. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I use it every day and could never get through law school or my daily life without it. -Craig Marr

I was at a major Apple retailer ready to buy $20K of G3 gear. I took out my Newton to scribble some notes on his prices when the salesman wryly commented "Gee, I didn’t know anyone still used those things anymore." My response: "What? This? The only good thing Apple ever made?" He just rolled his eyes and walked off. That’s one $20K sale lost for being a smart arse. -Dennys Ilic, Australia

Having been the proud owner of five other PDAs (everything from Sharps to Psions), the Newton still is the most elegant and easy to use solution I’ve found. -Edward McCulloch

I am a teacher, and NOTHING compares with Newton. Only now are Win CE machines being (somewhat) favorably compared to Newtons, and only the big ones. Funny, since everyone wanted a smaller Newton. Apple promised us a replacement and a path for Newton owners, and, of late, Jobs has been doing a good job at keeping promises. -John J. D’Alessandro

The Pilot, Casio, Velo, and even my long, lost flame Sharp don’t even turn my head on the beach. There is something about Newton that just won’t go away. The other thing that makes me feel very friendly to Pen Computing is that you have such great things to say about Apple. Yeah, they piss me off too, but that’s what life is like. There is no denying they make products that are endearing because they work and think like I do. -Steve Overton

I have been using a MP2100 for nearly a year now and have been very pleased. This week, I met with two new customers. During both meetings, I flipped out my MP2100 to take notes. Almost immediately, everyone in the meeting became fixated on my MessagePad. I nearly lost control of why I was there because the customers were so interested in my "gizmo." The next series of questions where: "were can I get one!" It was disappointing to have to say, "Apple discontinued it." -David Craig

I am still buying Newton software (Lunasuite, Cinema Player, Lexidrugs 98, Lextionary, and the new X-Port when sound is supported), so it’s not dead yet! I’m very curious about the upcoming Mac PDA. Judging from the new PowerBook and the iMac, I know it’ll rock. Actually, despite my love for Newton, I can see why Apple made the decision it did. I just wish they had been kinder to the developers; they’re the ones who got the shaft.
I’m curious about finding out what the Windows world is like, but I know I won’t love it! Newton and Apple keep the bar raised, and that’s only a good thing. -Noreen Hananoki

There must be enough of us out there who love our units and won’t stop using them. I figure as long as mine doesn’t wear out before a Mac OS palmtop shows up, I won’t care about Windows CE or Palm or anything else. I also think that most of us expect more from our Newtons. As a consequence, we have found ways to use them for a wider range of activities than many who buy and use a Palm unit. -IAM

I have to admit to being a Newton addict. I have owned every version of the Newton that Apple ever made, usually one of the first of each model, starting with one of the first hundred or so of the MP100s sold at Macworld in Boston. I now have an MP2100. I intend to continue using it for as long as it works. In fact I bought one of the last ones that were available when Apple announced its discontinuance, so that I would have a spare in case my current one died! -David Barry

I agree entirely with your observations. No doubt, someday an equally sophisticated platform will be there to replace my Newton. -Bishop Auxentios, St. Gregory Palamas Monastery

As a PC user, I have always been amazed at the passion of Apple users. After I bought my MessagePad, I discovered why. -Hoong Neoh

I hear it calling to me even as we speak. There are times when I just can’t help myself; I need to use the big lunk. I love the feel of the thing. I love the way it reads my handwriting. I love the way it performs. -Dan Lavato

I started with a MP100 and still love my MP2100. I must use it two hours a day. Where I go, it goes. I have a PowerBook, but I hate lugging it around and when I am home I do not want to sit behind a desk. The Pilot is fun and easier to carry but it is limited as to screen size, speed, memory, and features. -Mark Schmidt

I’ve checked out the latest handhelds but none really feel right compared to Newton. The handwriting recognition can actually understand my left-handed scrawling, it’s got the best backlit display, and the interface just makes sense. I hate to say it, David, but I doubt that your Newton will let you stop writing about it. -Brian Kehs

Many of you have reluctantly switched to the PalmPilot or Palm III device, though your disappointment with them in comparison to Newton is apparent. A bona fide hit product, the Pilot is certainly a well-designed, powerful little machine, but it is no Newton. Then again, it really never intended to be. Windows CE devices have the distinct advantage of being from Microsoft. Is it a great technology? As Star Trek: Voyager’s Seven of Nine would say, "Irrelevant!" It will succeed by virtue of being a Microsoft-decreed standard. It only has to be adequate. Fortunately, it is much more than that.

I also see that most of you are eager to buy Apple’s forthcoming "consumer portable" device, what many refer to as the "iBook" or "eMac." Rumor has it that the PowerPC-based device will include handwriting recognition and will allow its keyboard to fold over to become a slate. I hope these rumors are true, as it will go a long way towards satisfying my post-Newton needs and perhaps yours as well. In the meantime, let’s all appreciate what we’ve got in our hands right now and trust Steve Jobs to do the right thing.

-David MacNeill is executive editor of Pen Computing Magazine and editor-in-chief of Digital Camera Magazine. Newton Notes™ has been in continuous publication since the release of the Newton in 1993.