I had an interesting conversation with my dad today about the Newton MessagePad that was released by Apple in 1993 and discontinued in 1998. One of those products that was sort of ahead of its time. I like it to think of it as the original iPad or the iPad’s father. You could do e-mail on it and it had basic apps like to do lists and whatnot. In order to write on it, you needed to use the stylus, which recognized your strokes. My dad described it as a pidgin language of sorts that you needed to learn. Though the later ones allowed for a keyboard to attach to it.
The stylus is what I remember about the Newton MessagePad. I remember watching my dad chill with his Newton as he would use the stylus to send his e-mails and do whatever other tasks he wanted to do. These are pretty early memories of mine as I was born in 1989. So, I would have been 4 years old when they first came out and 9 years old when they discontinued!
Anyways, my dad said what he remembers about the Newton MessagePad is that the first few ones were released too soon and were pretty buggy. But the last one he thought was quite good. He really liked it. He remembers asking Steve Jobs about the Newton MessagePad and whether or not he would continue making them. This was right around the time that Jobs decided to discontinue the product.
While he wasn’t super crazy about the Newton MessagePad, Jobs admitted to my dad that the last one was pretty good. The issue was that Apple couldn’t afford to manage two different operating systems. At that time (1998), Apple had the Newton OS and the Macintosh OS (now referred to as Classic Mac OS). They couldn’t afford to maintain Newton at the time, so they discontinued it.
A few years later, Apple built on the Classic Mac OS to develop the current macOS (2001) that we all know today while also rolling out the iPhone OS now called iOS for short. iOS was also the operating system of the iPad until the Fall of 2019 when Apple announced the release of iPadOS, which branches off of iOS. It has more of a focus on multitasking and suiting the needs of the iPad than iOS, which was originally intended to be used for smart phones. So, I guess it makes sense that iPadOS would be born from iOS.
Anyways, I found this little history lesson from my dad to be pretty interesting. The whole evolution of technology I think is pretty cool and also modalities. Like, in another alternate universe instead of using iPads, we’re all using Newton. Maybe iNewton would be a thing? Who knows.
Curious to get more thoughts on this. Especially from @Chris who knew Steve Jobs quite well. I’m sure he can offer some insight and tell some interesting stories about the Newton and why it ended up not making it.
Note: For those that are super into coding, the Newton OS was written entirely in C++. Figured some of you would find that to be cool.