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/// The Newton MessagePad: A First Look
By Robert Glover
Apple has broken new ground with the introduction of its Newton MessagePad,
a neat little computer with handwriting recognition and the ability to be
a veritable office for the briefcase, or the ideal accessory for the student!
The following text is taken from Apple's own spec sheet:
"The Newton MessagePad is the first in a family of communications assistants
from Apple. By combining Newton Intelligence technology with sophisticated
communications capabilities, the Newton MessagePad helps you stay in touch
with friends and colleagues, organize your life, and keep track of your
ideas. You can take notes. Make a quick sketch. Format and print letters.
Share and synchronize information with your personal computer. Send a fax.
Receive pages and messages. Tap into online services or electronic mail.
Even exchange business cards with a colleague via built-in infrared tech-
nology. And wherever you go, the powrful, under-one-pound personal digital
assistant goes too, tucked in your pocket or briefcase.
"As easy to use as pencil and paper, the Newton MessagePad lets you leave
your notes handwritten or reads your handwriting and transforms it into
typed text. If you prefer, you can type words using an on-screen keyboard.
It even cleans up your rough sketches. And as time goes by, it learns about
you, your handwriting, and the way you work.
"Because the Newton MessagePad is designed to know how you work, it can help
you work smarter. For example, the Newton MessagePad can find a phone number
and dial the phone for you, fax a note, format a letter, and even setup a
"The Newton MessagePad comes with built-in applications that include a note-
pad, to-do list, datebook, and name file to get you started. When you're
ready, you can customize your Newton MessagePad to include Apple and third-
party software and hardware additions as well."
· Let you capture, organize, and communicate all kinds of information.
· Allow free-form notetakeing -- mixing ink handwriting, printed text, and
graphics all on the same page.
· Turn printed or cursive handwriting into typed text or leave it as ink.
· Track tasks via a to-do list that helps you assign priorities, lets you
check off completed tasks, and then updates the next day's list for you.
· Let you create name files with a familiar, business-card look and feel
that help you store information on hundreds of colleagues and friends.
· Help you plan monthly, weekly, and daily calendars.
· Include and assortment of information and productivity tools (such as
time-zone maps, calculator, and currency-exchange formulas).
· Send notes or messages, schedule appointments, or exchange business cards
with other nearby Newton users via built-in infrared beaming technology.
· Print formatted letters and notes to serial and parallel printers.
· Send faxes anywhere with an optional compact fax modem.
· Receive and store wireless paging messages with the optional Newton
· Share information and keeps files synchronized and updated with personal
computers running Microsoft Windows or with Macintosh computers (requires
Newton Connection Kit).
· Tap into electronic mail and online services with an optional compact
· Knows how you work and actively assists you in completing tasks.
· Assists you in making phone calls, faxing, finding information, sending
electronic mail, printing, scheduling meetings, and completing to-do
· Newton Recognition Architecture
- Recognizes handwriting: printed, cursive or mixed word recognition
- Recognizes graphics and the inherent symmetry in objects
· Newton Information Architecture
- Object-oriented data storage optimized for storing, finding, and linking
small pieces of information
- Easy creation of custom forms applications via the flexible graphical
- Easy data sharing using standard tags
- Object-oriented database provides flexible view of data
· Newton Communications Architecture
- Provides single interface for all communications services
- Integrated to support easy communications services
- Designed in modules to suppoort new communications abilities
· Intelligent Assistance Architecture
- Assists users in completing repetitive tasks done in multiple
categories, including communications, scheduling, finding, and
- Contains smart defaults to reduce complexity
- Functions across applications transparently
- Allows extensions by third-part developers
· Newton Hardware Architecture
- ARM 610 processor at 20 MHz
- Apple custom system ASIC
- Low-power, reflective LCD display (336 x 240 pixels)
- Transparent tablet with passive pen
- 4 MB of ROM
- 640K of RAM
- One PCMCIA type 2 card slot
- LocalTalk compatible serial port
- Low-power, half-duplex, infrared transceiver (9600 baud at 1 meter)
· Print to Apple LaserWriters and StyleWriters with serial cable and to
popular parallel printers using Newton Print Pack.
· Fax with optional fax modem (9600 baud fax send, automatic cover-page
· "Beam" via infrared technology (send notes, name cards, appointments at
9600 baud with 1-meter range)
· Handle telephony needs with assistance for intelligent auto dialing
(DTMF or modem dialing).
· Receive and store wireless messages using optional Messaging Card
· Send and receive NewtonMail to other Newtons, PC's and Macintosh
computers with optional modem.
Size and Weight:
· 7.25" H x 4.5" W x 0.75" D
· Weight: 0.9 lb. (0.4 kg)
· Temperature: 0° to +40° C
· Storage temperature: -20° to +60° C
· Humidity range: 20% to 95% RH noncondensing
· Power adapter:
- Universal, 100 to 240 VAC, 50/60 Hz
- Four plug configurations: US, UK, Europe and Australia
· Battery type: Alkaline or nickel-cadmium
- Alkaline output: 6.0V DC, 1.1 WH (nominal)
- Nickel-Cadmium output: 4.8V DC, 200 mAh (nominal)
· Lithium Cell: CR2032
- Operating range: 3V (nominal)
· Power source: AC adapter (included) or four AAA batteries (included)
and optional Rechargable Battery Pack
· Works with personal computers running Microsoft Windows; requires
connector cable and version 3.0 or later.
· Works with Macintosh personal computers; requires connector cable and
System 7.01 or later.
· Built-in printer support for the Apple StyleWriter and StyleWriter II.
· All Apple PostScript laser printers from the LaserWriter Plus and up.
· The Apple Personal LaserWriter printer.
· Works with most popular PC printers, including the Hewlett-Packard
LaserJet, DeskJet, Cannon BubbleJet, and Epson LQ and FX using the
Print Pack option.
Fax Machine Support:
· Supports Group 3 fax machines.
For more information, contact:
Apple Computer, Inc.
20525 Mariani Avenue
Cupertino, CA 95014
Those of you that are still with me probably agree that this is one neat
little item! I was able to play with one for about fifteen minutes. That
wasn't nearly enough to really get acquainted with it, but I did learn a lot
The handwriting recognition is amazing! There are preference settings that
allow the primary user (and several guest users) to prepare it for individual
styles of handwriting. The speed at which the conversion is performed can be
adjusted from slowly and accurately, to quickly and less-accurately. I had
it set fairly close to slowly and accurately. It understood what I was
writing about 95% of the time, and took about four seconds to convert a word.
The settings can be tailored to printing, cursive, or a mixture thereof.
Since my writing is chicken scratch at best, I chose the latter, which worked
well. Each user can go through and choose which way he or she draws each
letter, to allow Newton to more quickly and efficiently recognize their style.
For example, some people print a capital A as "A", whereas some may print it
in its cursive form.
Newton has built-in sound, though hardly modern. The user can select from
Beep, Chime, Trill and Chord beep sounds, and set the volume level on-screen.
Same for the contrast. The screen is very easily readable. I think it's an
active-matrix screen, though I wouldn't swear to it. The resolution is very
nice, but I'm sure future versions will have even better modes, and eventually,
My only real beef with the Newton is that it has only one PCMCIA slot. There
are so many cool things coming out on PCMCIA cards that one slot is very
limiting. My main use of a Newton would be as a portable modem machine. But
that would wipe out my only PCMCIA slot. Once the system matures, it'd be nice
to be able to pop in a PCMCIA hard drive, or a Flash-RAM card to save extra
data. Or a network card. I bet future versions of Newton will incorporate
Also, while I'm at it, I don't like all of the extras that must be purchased.
The Print Pack, the Messaging Card (there goes the slot again), and so forth
bring an already expensive machine ($929 was what my local dealer wanted) to
an even higher price. Heaven forbid you should drop it! And insure it WELL.
I don't want to sound too hard on it. I'm not. I'm in love with the thing,
but at nearly $1000, I can have a nice 386SX notebook, which, for my
purposes, is a much better choice.