Reloading…The Apple Newton
Essential Apple User Magazine|January 2022
It was arguably the first PDA, and it pioneered (badly), handwriting recognition. But what was the Apple Newton, and why is such a flaky device so fondly remembered? Let’s take a look at this mid-Nineties misfire.

Apple in the mid-Nineties was a mess. Every attempt to innovate went wrong, with over-priced, underachieving products that failed to capture the imagination. The Apple Newton – or more correctly, the Apple MessagePad running Newton OS – was no exception. Even though it coined the term ‘Personal Digital Assistant’ (PDA), and pioneered handwriting recognition, it was plagued with problems which it never overcame. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he put the device out of its misery.

In the Newton, Apple aimed for a portable but large-format device with a touchscreen and a rich, object-orientated graphics kernel.

Late in its development cycle, Apple’s then CEO John Sculley abandoned the original concept in favour of a much smaller device. Designed by the legendary Jonathan Ive, it would be an electronic organiser and mobile computer that would complement the Macintosh, rather than compete with it. In 1993, the Newton MessagePad, and the PDA, was born.

A weak launch

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