RetroMacCast

Where great old Macs live again!

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.

Views: 45

Comment by James on December 14, 2008 at 2:39pm
Fantastic story! That is what it is all about -- sharing the joy of retro computing.
Comment by Wholly Mindless on December 14, 2008 at 8:50pm
Damn you. I've now got four of them on my ebay list. (grin)

It certainly seems like something I missed.
Comment by Kathryn on December 14, 2008 at 9:32pm
It is amazing to see the reaction a Newton, or an eMate can get. That is such a kick that your professor and her assistant were so excited. Newton did blade the trail. Next class, take your eMate.
Comment by Sean2300c on December 15, 2008 at 1:59am
actually took my eMate in the week before to show another professor. She bought 3 XO laptops for us to play with. The class was about technology and poverty. The eMate had a striking resemblence to the XO!
Comment by MacMan on December 16, 2008 at 1:57pm
Brilliant story! I've had the same reactions from people in the past as I used to use my Newton 2000 to take notes in lectures at uni, which often attracted interest from other students and professors. I also took my 2000 to the opening of the Glasgow Buchanan Street Apple store and had good fun showing it to people. This was shortly after the iPhone release in America so I had the message "The Original iPhone" displayed on the Newton's screen, which caused many laughs! Several visiting Americans took pictures of it sitting next to their iPhones for a size comparison. I was also talking to a guy who worked on the Newton development team way back when and he claimed to own quite a few Newtons.
Comment by Andrew Ryan on December 18, 2008 at 7:56pm
Great story, I too use a Newton 110 at my uni, although the looks I get from my class mates is one of confusion and pity rather than the joy you received. As they tap happily into their iPhones, I struggle with the 1.0 OS handwriting recognition. I managed to get it to write the term "Freckled Egg" once... But it took many attempts!
Comment by MacMan on December 19, 2008 at 2:56pm
Yeah I've got a 120 with the version 1 software on it, (I think it is 1.2), and it certainly is difficult to write with compared to 2.0 on the 2000. I quite like just doodling on the Newtons actually, which fortunately is just as easy with either OS.

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