When I started listening to the RetroMacCast, I had only a very vague idea of what a Newton was. After about 60 or so episodes (I started with the first episode), I was intrigued and started to do some research of my own. Unsurprisingly, I ended up buying one. I decided that I was going to get a Newton 130, since that would enable me to use new batteries without the hassle of having to rebuild a battery pack.
Said and done, I had some fun playing around with it, but I struggled to find a good use for it once the novelty had worn off. I actually did try using it at work, but I found that it didn't work well with my preferred style of note-taking (I always draw mindmaps). I could do it, but it was much slower than simply doing it by hand, so I went back to using pen and paper for note-taking.
After that, the Newton spent months just lying on my desk unused. Then, again in an episode of RetroMacCast, I heard something about using the Newton for databases. Coincidentally, I had been planning on creating some sort of index for all the stuff I have in storage, so the timing was excellent.
I decided to try FilePad 1.6 (freely available at www.unna.org), so I installed it on my Newton and got to work. I was immediately drawn in by the ease of use but nevertheless myriad of opportunities the software in question offered. Once I'd created a template I was happy with, I took the Newton, went to my storage space, and got to work. Lo and behold, working with the Newton was a delight! I have always hated typing on smartphones (even with my current huge 5.5" screen, I find it frustrating at best and avoid it as much as I can), whereas writing with a proper stylus (I've tried using smartphone stylii, but I detest them) is a much nicer experience. For short words and clicking through pop-up menus, the Newton was perfect.
But that's not all: by installing another Newton app called FilePadLink and using it with a similarly named companion app in Mac OS 9, I was able to upload my database file to my Wallstreet, where I could import it to FileMaker Pro 4 (which is also freely available, at http://macintoshgarden.org). There's even an app for synchronizing your FileMakerPro database with the one in the Newton, but I still haven't gotten that to work in a satisfying manner (although I will keep experimenting).
If anyone wants to try this, it might be good to know that you need to disable AppleTalk on your Mac to use FilePadLink (I also had to reboot after disabling it), then you first click Connect on the Mac OS app, which will open up a dialog box, where it says something about trying to initialize MTP. Then you click Connect in FilePadLink on your Newton. This should open the connection. This is somewhat counterintuitive, since Apple Connection Utilities uses AppleTalk to connect to the Newton. If you get an error message stating that the serial port is busy, it's probably AppleTalk that's hogging it. Disable and reboot.
So now I've found a great new use for my Newton, made it fun to index my storage space, and started to learn how to use FileMaker Pro . A big thanks to James and John bringing it to my attention!