A Conversation for History of the Personal Data Assistant (PDA)
dElaphant (and Zeppo his dog (and Gummo, Zeppos dog)) - Left my apostrophes at the BBC Started conversation Mar 31, 2004
Some more notes about the Apple Newton, from some one who owns one:
It looks nothing like the iPod (I own one of those too). The Newton is large, black, heavy and most of the top surface is made up of screen with few or no buttons, it also has a flip cover. The iPod is small, white (or even smaller with a choice of metallic colors), light, the LCD panel takes up less than half the surface, has no flip cover, and the dominant feature is the scroll wheel and menu buttons for controlling the device. You could never confuse these two. In fact, the iPod looks more like a Palm.
The 85% accuracy problem for the handwriting recognition was a problem with the first model only. Apple addressed that in the next release, and by the end of it's run the Newton's handwriting recognition was actually quite good, closer to 95% (it learned from it's mistakes, so it got better the more you used it). Since it recognized both printing and cursive without requiring the user to learn a new writing style, that was pretty amazing. There is still nothing quite like it.
The second, equally famous reference to the handwriting problems of the early model was in the comic strip Doonesbury, in which Mike Doonesbury is trying to read his Newton notes, but is confronted with the phrase "Egg freckles". Apple took the criticism well and in the more functional, later versions of the Newton, you can write the words "egg freckles", circle them, and click the "assist" button and that panel of the comic strip will appear, a permanent feature of the Newton OS.
In the end, the Newton failed not because of the handwriting issue, but because it was large, heavy and the synchronization tool was not as good as Palm's. Some people still use their Newtons, and there is even some occasional new software written for it.
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