Newton: five years after

State Of The Newton Address

by Victor Rehorst (who is the “king of NewtonTalk”, but doesn’t need to be worshipped) –

Today marks the five year anniversary of the cancellation of the Newton. Around this time in 2001, I wasn’t sure if the Newton and its followers would last the year: Palm and Pocket PC were making strong showings at the expense of the smaller PDA players such as Psion. It seemed like Newton software development was at a total standstill, with a small handful of exceptions. NewtonTalk was losing subscribers because of mismanagement at the hands of IdeaCast.

Today, some key developers have joined those few and created applications that we only dreamed of: MP3 players, ATA support, desktop synchronization, and TCP/IP and IR connectivity, to name a few. NewtonTalk has grown by 60% since June 2001. The Newton still gets positive press coverage from publications such as Wired and MacAddict. There’s been an explosion of Newton-based Websites. People want to use their Newtons and seem willing to do so through any means necessary. I believe that we are in the midst of the Newton’s renaissance, five years after it all seemed like the end was nigh.

In my opinion, the Newton platform is as healthy as a five-year-old platform can get. Used hardware is plentiful, mostly because the large number of units that were in the vertical market are now being liquidated. This drove prices on 2×00 models down from $400 US to $150 and below. Suddenly, people could purchase a PDA for less than a Palm or Win CE machine, and it had a huge screen and great battery life! This coupled with some press coverage and much evangelism by the community actually caused the number of personal Newton users to increase as business users decreased.

This influx of users has fueled many important software developments as well. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, but here’s a short list of new software developments for the Newton that have come about since 2001:

  • SimpleMail 4.3 with APOP/SMTP authentication, IMAP and vCard support

  • WaveLAN 802.11b wireless network card driver

  • Newtourage, information syncing with Entourage 2001/X

  • NewtSync, information sync system with extensible plug-ins

  • DIL Tester, first desktop connection app to support TCP/IP connections

  • MAD Max, native MP3 player (with iTunes plugin)

  • Waba VM, bringing a whole new programming language to the Newton

  • many updates to NPDS, the Newton’s very own open source web server

  • Nitro, a free TinyTP / IrCOMM implementation

  • NaPalm, the forthcoming (we hope) PalmOS emulator

  • the Desktop Connection Library

    • (you’ll be hearing about this soon I think…)

Many of these pieces of software wouldn’t exist without the growth of the community in the past two years.

The Newton seems to attract a certain niche of supporters: people who have found things in the platform that haven’t been duplicated anywhere else. The screen size, the feeling of writing on paper, the intuitive OS, the unique system architecture, the dual PC Card slots even! We are people for whom Palms and PocketPCs are either flashy or underpowered. The Newton is still serving as an actually usable handheld computer five years after the last system was sold.

I’m rambling on now, and I’m way too tired to be writing this right now. So let me say this: the Newton is alive and well. It’s pretty rare for a user community to actually grow after the cancellation of a product line, but here we are, growing and extending our Newtons, and gaining more and more dedicated users. We eep on writing software, finding and making hardware fixes, and dreaming up new things to do with our Newtons. It’s just great. Of course, you all know that already. But maybe today, you should find someone who doesn’t, and show them how useful the Newton could be for them. How after five years, the Newton is still the most intelligent handheld computer.


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2 replies

  1. Thanks to all developers, suporters, the movers and the shakers for keeping the Newt alive and well.

    Newton never dies! just gets new batteries… 🙂

  2. Newton rules! Woo!

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