Even after 14 years, an Apple Newton 110 can still turn heads.
A week ago a classmate caught me browsing eBay and the local craigslist for laptops. I told him that I enjoy collecting the old computers and had a number of them already. After offering to give me his old PowerBook, he mentioned that he had always wanted to play with a Newton. He had seen them years ago, but never had a chance to use it. In response to that, I said had collected three of them, a 110, 2100 and an eMate 300. He looked at me with shock-
"You have three Newtons?"
"Yes" I replied "My friend had one while we were in elementary school and since then I always wanted one. So I purchased some off eBay a few years back. Would you like one? One of them I don't use very much anymore"
Which was true. My first Newton was the 110, I bought off eBay. It was a concession buy, I really wanted a 130 (for the backlight and screen rotating ability) but also had fond memories of the Newton 1.0 OS (of my friend's 100). Plus, the 110 was dirt cheap, for the same reason that a PowerBook 100 will command a premium because everyone thinks it is the original PowerBook, but you can have a 140 or 170 for less. Since the purchase of the 110, I went on to get an eMate, and finally a 2100 which I saw on the local craigslist. The 2100 was a bargain, I thought because it came with briefcase, keyboard, AA battery tray, Serial adaptor (very important!) and the Newton itself for $100. It seemed pretty reasonable to me. Since the 2100, I just do not use the 110 much anymore. The 2100 is simply a better, more evolved Newton.
The next week, I came to our class presentation with my 110. After the presentations (which went well), I had the Newton sitting out, ready to hand to my classmate. My professor was walking around handing out evaluation forms when she came by my table. Upon seeing it, her jaw dropped-
"You have a NEWTON???"
"Uh, Yes" I replied, somewhat taken back by her excitement.
"OhMyGosh- I have to show Liz!"
Before I had a chance to interject, she had ran off with it over to her assistant lecturer. My professor is an HCI (Human Computer Interaction) buff. The class I took was about developing physical interfaces for digital information. To my surprise, I look over and see my professor, her assistant lecturer, and about two or three other people hovering over the Newton, stylus out, tapping and scribbling on the screen, trying to get the handwriting recognition to work. The excitement though, was intense. I would argue it was on par with bringing the holy grail to a bunch of medieval historians.
But in a way the Newton was a sort of unsung holy grail for human computer interaction. The newton was way ahead of its time, offering features that would not make their way into less expensive handhelds for years. I'm glad that it can still get its 15 minutes of fame.