From Pen Computing Magazine #26, February 1999

Newton Notes

So long, Newton. It was fun while it lasted

©Copyright 1999 David MacNeill

I have been "playing office," as my wife Leslie likes to call it, all day, postponing the inexorable reality that I have to write this column today. For almost six years now I have filled this space with my ruminations on Newton MessagePads, eMates, and all the great software written for them by the most talented developers in the world. Tonight (since I managed to put it off until I got home) I am writing my last Newton Notes column.

And I’m not going to BS you about my reasons: I have simply run out of things to write about concerning these wonderful little machines. Yes, there are still a few new apps popping up here and there, and the occasional update to an old fave, but it’s not enough for me to maintain my enthusiasm. A living platform is what I require, one that is still young enough to need my help but not so young that it is frustrating to use. I’ve done all I can for Newton.

MacMate and WebMate
At the time I am writing this, there is much speculation as to what Apple’s new "Consumer Mobile" devices will be. By the time you read this it may be common news, but I believe they will produce an Apple-branded version of the 3Com Palm VII, a Palm III with built-in wireless connectivity for short messaging service via the venerable RAM Mobile network, now called BellSouth Wireless Data. Apple will add its peerless industrial design talents and some Mac-like interface enhancements to the party. Probable name: MacMate. Probable price: US$499. Mystery Device Number Two, currently codenamed P1, will be a simplified PowerBook similar to the current crop of Windows CE-based HPC Pro devices, the machines formerly known as Jupiter. With Newton-derived "Mondello" handwriting recognition, these PowerPC-based devices will be durable, portable, and inexpensive. Probable name: WebMate. Probable price: US$999.

These tantalizing possible products have me practically drooling with anticipation. They sound like the perfect tools for the way I work today. Ironically, I currently carry a Palm III and, for times when I need serious email access, a usable keyboard for writing, and a color screen for images from my digital cameras, I use a LG Phenom Express, a Windows CE-based HPC Pro. Fine devices, certainly. Best of class. But I know Apple can improve on these compelling designs, and that they almost certainly will very soon.

Depending on Apple’s rollout schedule, I may already be writing my new column about the ‘Mates by the time you read this. It’s important for me to state that I have not yet been briefed by Apple, so all this is mere speculation. But if this or something like this comes to market, you can bet your asteroid that I’ll have the inside scoop and write it all down, right here, for you, every issue.

A present
All of you faithful readers have given me so much encouragement over the years that I feel compelled to give something back. So, in that spirit, I am putting my entire collection of Newton Notes columns on the Pen Computing website for your reading pleasure. They date back to mid-1993, just after the Newton’s launch. I’m sure I’ll wince as I read some of my old predictions, but these columns should make for interesting reading to those who savor all things Newton. If nothing else, they should make a useful archive for future historians researching the legendary Newton. They will seek information on this amazingly prescient handheld computer which appeared a decade too soon to succeed in the mass market. People needed them and didn’t even know it. Sad.

But there’s no time for nostalgia; I have work to do. There is much preparation involved in getting ready to cover a new device, and I’m already on the case. No long goodbyes here, just a tip of the fedora brim to you all and to Newton Notes as well. It was fun while it lasted.

-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 MessagePad in 1993.