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Portables (Apple) Businesses Handhelds Operating Systems Software Apple Hardware

The Newton O.S. Creeps Toward New Hardware 278

GraWil writes "As previously reported, the Apple Newton refuses to die! The Worldwide Newton Conference 2004 has wrapped up (photos) and, thanks to Paul Guyot, there is real hope for an emulator. His talk, titled 'Newton never dies, It only gets new hardware,' describes and shows the Einstein Emulator, that will eventually allow the Newton OS to be built and run on top of Unix. Will your next Linux PDA boot Newton OS next year?"
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The Newton O.S. Creeps Toward New Hardware

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  • Still viable (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TimmyDee ( 713324 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @08:34PM (#10435371) Homepage Journal
    In spite of its detractors, the Newton continues to be a viable handheld platform (shortcomings of the hardware notwithstanding). As a current Newton user, I'm excited for a new lease on life. The genius of the Newton is the OS -- the HWR, the Assistant, and the soup method of data storage. Newton apps "see" each other's data and don't have to run any sort of conversion to use it as their own. You own the data, not the app. Plus, writing "10:00 meeting with lab group 10/14" in the Assistant and getting the proper entry in your calendar just rocks!
  • bad apple (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @08:35PM (#10435378)
    apple should have kept making newtons and bought palm when they could
  • GNUton Etc. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Feneric ( 765069 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @08:36PM (#10435384) Homepage

    It's good to hear about the Einstein Emulator. I wonder what happened to the GNUton project []; it seemed to be working in the same direction and as far as I know actually got a bootable system running through the magic of Python. Granted, there's been no status update since 2000, but I've certainly seen free software projects go dormant longer.

    Recently Newton's Library [] has gone live again; I'm one of the volunteer librarians. If anyone is interested in helping out, let me know. The Newton MessagePad is a great device for reading e-books, and the potential of new hardware certainly can't hurt.

  • NewtonOS Clone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @08:37PM (#10435391)
    considering how "ancient" (in computer/pda terms) the Apple Newton PDAs were, why don't people try to essentially rewrite a clone of it. i understand the usefulness of an emulator, but an OS clone would be much more convenient. you can get the features, look, and feel of the Newton OS while also having the luxury of adding upgrades when the needs arise. Also, it could be ported to newer hardware (instead of the legacy/aging Newton one.)

    i, not being a programmer myself, cannot fathom the complexity of writing such an OS, perhaps. but it makes more sense, to me atleast, to take what everyone seems to love about the old software and move on to a new one.

    anyone care to explain how hard it would to write an entire new OS for a PDA (similar to that of Newton's) ?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @08:46PM (#10435467)
    I dissagree.... in '94/'95 I took ALL my univeristy CS notes on my Newton. While everone else was luggin around either texbooks or the odd Notebook computer. I had my trusty Newton. Saved as handwriting in class...coverted to text in the evenings... gave me extra incentive to re-read all my notes that day in the evening.

    worked like a charm!
  • by St3phen ( 147601 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @08:49PM (#10435484)
    that you'll hopefully eventually be able to run the (brilliant) Newton OS on more modern & portable hardware.

    Also, if your entire exposure to the Newton OS was on a 1.0 device, IMHO, you've missed out on what the real draw is vis-a-vis the capabilities of the later MessagePads & eMate.
  • by pete_yandell ( 211045 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @09:28PM (#10435743) Homepage
    Putting my nerd hat on, the really cool thing about developing for the Newton was the programming language that it used, called (unimaginatively) NewtonScript. Don't let the "Script" fool was a serious language: bytecode interpreted, garbage collected, fast, compact. Pretty impressive for something running on a handheld back in the early 90s! I spent a while tinkering around with writing a NewtonScript emulator, and the internals of the language were beautifully designed. (I still struggle with Java today because it just feels so incredibly clunky in comparison.)

    One thing which would make emulating a Newton difficult is the memory management. It used an incredibly fine-grained MMU. I can't remember the page size, but basically it did mark-compact garbage collection, and did the compact bit by just shuffling page mappings in the MMU! Very neat, but difficult to fake efficiently on other hardware.
  • Data soup (Score:3, Interesting)

    by steveha ( 103154 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @09:48PM (#10435858) Homepage
    I'm wondering whether the "Data Soup" concept will be adopted by any major free, open source software (FOSS) system.

    The Newton, the Canon Cat, the shareware word processor Yeah Write, all had some kind of system where the user didn't need to worry about files. (I don't really know enough about the Newton data soup to comment on how similar or dissimilar these all were to it.)

    The only project along these lines that I know of is Gnome Storage [].

  • by IntlHarvester ( 11985 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:03PM (#10435949) Journal
    This is pretty simplistic reasoning. Apple was losing a ton of money at the time and there was the real need to cut down on the speculative projects and concentrate on the "core markets" (if even just to make Wall Street happy). Apple also cut dozens of Macintosh models at the same time.

    Not to mention that the Newton brandname was pretty much dirt at that point. Even though the later models were nice, people though of the thing as a big joke. A Palm Pilot was the cool thing to have, not a Newton.

    Plus you had the huge psychological impact of Microsoft entering the market with Windows CE and getting a ton of licensees (which Apple couldn't get). I suspect Apple had no desire to play the Second Fiddle Minority Platform game in two different markets. (WinCE turned out to be a bit of a dud, but that's what Apple thought was going to happen to Windows 3.1 as well.)

    After you consider all those business reasons, I suppose you could make the personality argument.
  • by adolfojp ( 730818 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:07PM (#10435966)
    Apple should join the PDA market. If they stick to their current trends, their PDA would be super stylish, super user friendly, and compatible with iCal and such. Mac fans would buy them just because... Many others would buy them because of the statement (if not perhaps fashion statement) they would make. Call it a iNewton with old Newton emulation and you would get many loyal Newton advocates to buy them also.


  • by pnot ( 96038 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:10PM (#10435978)
    While everone else was luggin around either texbooks or the odd Notebook computer. I had my trusty Newton.

    Uhm. Assuming you mean "textbooks", rather than "copies of Donald Knuth's manual for TeX"... how did your Newton replace textbooks? Did you transcribe whole books onto your Newton for easy reference?

    I'd've thought that the old-tech equivalent of a Newton is a pen and a slim folder of writing paper, which probably weighs about as much as a Newton, *and* doesn't run out of battery power, *and* lets you make paper darts when the lecture gets slow ;-).
  • by mrgreen4242 ( 759594 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:23PM (#10436035)
    I hate replying to my own post, but I have been looking around a bit more and I came across the Jornada 680/e and the 7xx (looks the same, seems to be more powerful, and more expensive)... anyways, the form factor is right, but I am not a huge fan of WinCE... So questions are: Anyone use these? what did you think? Are they upgradable (in terms of OS... to at least PocketPC2k or even, dare I dream, Linux)?
  • by xtermin8 ( 719661 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:34PM (#10436096)
    I've heard rumor that NewtonScript was a dialect of Scheme- just how lispish is it?
  • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:35PM (#10436106)
    Take: 1 Newton 2100 for handwriting

    CompactFlash for Music and Storage (microdrive)

    1 Zaurus SL-C860 for touchscree display, keyboard, Linux (Or FreeBsd/OsX)

    add Ethernet, Bluetooth, and 802.11b/g

    Full day battery(8 hrs) battery life with user replacable, standard AA NiMH batteries

    Support and a vendor supported dev. community

    Stir Vigoriously, pour into a sub $600 package

    Sell hundreds of thousands of units!!!

  • Missing the Point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 04, 2004 @10:54PM (#10436179)
    Einstein is crucial to the Newton community. The problem we're stuck with is pretty straightforward: our machines are aging and slowly falling apart, but the software contained therein is still better than anything on the market. We'd like to jump to a new platform. Honest. We really would. But the existing offerings (software-wise) blow chunks compared to the big clunky Newtons we've got in our hands.

    Einstein, if we're lucky, will give us the chance to have our cake and eat it too. And trust me, the Linux-on-a-PDA folks would be very very lucky to have the myriad of high-quallity Newton apps running on their boxen. Beats the snot out of the crap running on Yopis right now, that's fore sure.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:02PM (#10436219) Journal
    Apple should join the PDA market.

    Been there, done that. The question is: is the PDA market a place where a company like Apple can produce a device so compelling that people flock to it like they did to the iPod?

    Personally, I doubt it. Palm's already got a pretty good product, and from where I sit, the margins on PDAs really aren't able to support the kind of R&D expense that Apple would have to take on to be able to significantly exceed what's already out there.

  • by David Rolfe ( 38 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:46PM (#10436404) Homepage Journal
    The Message Pad 2100 (baring it's size) is really the epitome of the PDA. In that ... it's actually able to 'assist' in what you typically use a pda for. Voice recording, calendaring, little black-booking, emailing.

    I have a 2100 and also was an early adopter of the Palm series (had an original palm pro, a palm three, then got a visor deluxe, then a clié -- depsite the clié's higher resolution and jog wheel, I gave it up and went back to the visor). I haven't bothered to move on to the Zire line because... although graffiti is usable, it just sucks compared to the -- let me stress this again -- awesome recognition of the Newton MP. I know there are some folks out there working on embedded GTK interfaces, can any of you let me know where HWR is at on the embedded Linux scene?

    So, the reason no one is 're-writing' a clone OS of the Newton is the unfeasibility of creating, from a hobbyist public domain vector a platform as perfectly suited to the PDA as the Newton OS. I am enamoured with tablet computing... I even have one of the first IBM Thinkpads (Type 2524, all screen, no keyboard). Which you could say is loosely a sibling of the same era. It uses Windows 95 with the 'Pen Computing' crap (since the Pen Windows or whatever was killed). The recognition is horrible. And that's with a 486DX, which should arguably have more horsepower than the ARM the Newton's had.

    Anyway, I know this post goes no where in specific but here's the main thrust: I have used basically every pen based system that has been commercially available. The Newton MP 2100 was the most elegant and useful of any of these. If Newton had survived Jobs re-emergence, or had been spun off, we would all have 3"x5"x.5", color, 180dpi, nearly edge to edge screen, pressure sensitive, useful, intelligent PDAs with HWR as good, or better, than the MP's for probably a lower price point than the original MP's. I'm thinking like $350. I would die for that.

    Oh, and let me say too... That ThinkPad is cool, I still sketch on it in Photoshop 3.5 with it, but the HWR is horrible. Damn you Microsoft. I just don't see why the whole industry just freaked out and let HWR wallow for so long. Even Ink in OS X isn't as good as the Newton HWR.

    Let the rebuttals fly!
  • by David Rolfe ( 38 ) on Monday October 04, 2004 @11:58PM (#10436464) Homepage Journal
    That may be true - that's it's "faster". But at what cost? I.e. 'faster with more typos left in'. I find that writing in my weird blend of cursive and printing using ink-text that I can consistently out-write myself when using graffiti. I'm not slouch with either. I've used both palm os devices and newtons for years (see my previous post in this thread). With graffiti you kinda of have to 'correct as you go' or take a hit in speed while you carefully make your strokes (and graffiti doesn't store your actually strokes so if you misspell someone's name in a quick note, you can't go back and see what you 'meant' to scribble down). With ink-text you just go all out, then bulk recognize when time isn't as pressing. With my Pilots (and visor's and cliés) I almost never took quick notes with graffiti, always opting for the Sketchpad. Second, I could never keep up with a lecture on a Pilot, while I could easily take notes with either ink-text or full HWR with the outline mode on my Newton MP2100.

    So yeah. Maybe I would have preferred graffiti on my H1000 ... as the hwr just sucked, and ink-text wasn't even available yet, but on the latest/last MP, real writing surpassed graffiti.
  • by austad ( 22163 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @12:21AM (#10436574) Homepage
    The margins are certainly good enough. Look at some of the PocketPC PDA's out there, they cost $800. And that new zaurus is like $700 something.

    Give me a sweet clamshell pda with bluetooth and GSM/GPRS, and I'll gladly fork over the money for it. Make it possible to insert 2 SIM cards so it's two lines, and I'll fork over even more. Companies don't want to pay for personal calls, so most people end up with two phones. This would alleviate that problem, and be a great selling point just by itself.

    I just picked up a Sidekick II the other day. It's a damn sweet device. A little bigger than I would like, but it still fits in my pocket. However, it doesn't have bluetooth, and t-mobile crippled it to force users to buy apps/ringtones/etc from them. I grabbed the SDK for it and a USB cable, and now I can upload that stuff on my own, but I still cannot tether it to my laptop and use it to dial up. I can SSH from it though, which is a lifesaver.

    In any case, if Apple brought out a phone with 2 SIM's (wishful thinking), clamshell design, GUI with the usual apple intuitiveness, maybe allow you to categorize everything so you could split data out into "work" and "personal", and apps that just plain worked, you bet your ass I'd pay almost whatever they were asking for it.

    $1000? If it makes my life easier by allowing me to organize myself more effectively, communicate more effectively, and lets me carry less crap around with me, it's worth it. The way I look at it, I'm not just buying a device, I'm buying convenience. You can't tell me there's no margins on something like that. People will pay for it. People will ditch their blackberries for it and expense them to their companies. Apple could charge almost whatever they wanted for a phone/pda device, and they would get it. Look at the ipod when it came out. What was it? Like 10GB for $499? People payed that, they *flew* off the shelves.

    Note that they do make 2 SIM adapters for phones, but they make you choose one on powerup. You can't have both available when the phone is on.
  • by wrs ( 53591 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @12:23AM (#10436579)
    The ARM's MMU has subpage protection boundaries. That is, the virtual-to-physical mapping is on 4K boundaries, but the access protection is on 1K boundaries.

    The MMU was co-designed by the Newton team and ARM Ltd. to support Newton OS, which has a single address space for all tasks, but provides inter-task memory protection based on a fast-switching "domain" register. AFAIK, the ARM MMU still has all these features, at least in some configurations, so look it up if you're interested.

    The 1K subpages allowed us to optimize for small physical memory (128K) via some interesting tricks. For example, the same physical page can be mapped to four different virtual pages, each of which has access to only one subpage. This is used to make "effectively 1K" V->P mappings for things like stacks (the minimum stack size is only 1K despite the 4K mapping boundaries).

    All that said, the NewtonScript garbage collector has nothing to do with the MMU. It's just your basic world-pausing mark-sweep-compact GC. Nowadays with more memory one would have to be more clever, but the priority then was using every possible byte of the 90K heap. The OS was designed with more clever GCs in mind, we just never got there.

    (Thanks for the kind words about NewtonScript, Pete.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @12:55AM (#10436758)
    Oh, I should mention that there's a good reason why JavaScript also is a proto-style language like NewtonScript (albeit a less impressive one), and why its accumulator generator looks like this:

    function foo (n) { return function (i) { return n += i } }

    ... essentially identical to to NewtonScript's

    foo := func (n) func (i) n := n + i ;

    ... except that in JavaScript foo is *declared* as the function name, while in NewtonScript foo is merely a variable holding the function.

    Anyhoo, it's because both languages are essentially derived from Sun's "Self" language. NewtonScript was writtne by Walter Smith for Apple around 1990 and was very heavily derived from Self. NewtonScript's goal was to be faster than Self (and it was -- at least compared to early Self stuff), and with a FAR smaller footprint.

    ECMAScript, er, JavaScript, er, LiveScript was also largely derived from Self, but simplified in unfortunate ways and with a radically changed "Java-ish" syntax -- at least the syntax was bolted on when LiveScript went to JavaScript.

    Anyway, the languages' object models are very very similar. JavaScript is an uglified version of Self, and NewtonScript is an elegant reworking of Self (IMHO), but with a weird, unfortunate addition to the inheritance chain (_parent). Remove that addition and NewtonScript is definitely a brilliant language.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @01:08AM (#10436829)
    Points all well taken, but they imply something which is not true: that the Newton was a money-loser at that point.

    Oh, the Newton lost a ton of money. But when Steve, er, Steved it, the Newton was turning a profit for the first time in its history. Always the good time to kill a project: just when it's making a return on your investiment. :-)
  • Re:let id die... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xofer D ( 29055 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @01:46AM (#10436975) Homepage Journal
    You must have had some kind of strange battery fault. My Newton runs for 24 hours continuously with the backlight on. That's what makes it my favourite book reader - I can read all night without waking up my girlfriend, because the backlight means I don't need a light to read. The LCD screen is very stable and doesn't make my eyes hurt, either.
  • Re:You forget... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @03:19AM (#10437264) Journal
    Jobs said "it's not a computer without a keyboard"

    I would tend to agree with this, at least until voice recognition has progressed to the point that I could use it to write code.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @04:45AM (#10437476) Journal
    Even Ink in OS X isn't as good as the Newton HWR.

    I'm surprised that you think so, since it's pretty much the same code. (Updated, and ported to PPC, of course, but the guys working on it now are the same ones who wrote it then, AFAIK.)

    Have you spent much time training the HWR on OSX?

  • Re:I agree. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OwnedByTwoCats ( 124103 ) on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @10:21AM (#10438997)
    It's one thing to choose between supporting one OS to third party developers vs. supporting two or more.

    The customer doesn't go out and buy new software to run on an iPod; the customer buys more songs. There is no courting of third-party developers for the iPod. At the moment...

    iPod + cellPhone + newton + digiCam + camCorder in one pocket-sized box. How cool would that be?
  • Re:Still viable (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EvilTwinSkippy ( 112490 ) <yoda@ e t o y> on Tuesday October 05, 2004 @10:23AM (#10439024) Homepage Journal
    I used to love the Newton because it was basically a monochrome no-frills laptop. The darn thing was self contained. With a keyboard I could type notes. With the sketch pad I could doodle. Sure, the sync options were primative, but you didn't NEED to sync a Newton.

    By contrast my shiny Sony Clie for all it's power is more or less a photo album for digital stills I keep on my memory card. While it will read PDFs and Office docs, it's slow and awkward to get to fit on the screen. I can only really sync it to one computer at a time, my laptop, because it records from any other copy of the database will re-create themselves, or worse, duplicate. And since I don't go anywhere without my iBook, the Palm is superfluous.

  • I want a tablet Mac! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Psykechan ( 255694 ) on Wednesday October 06, 2004 @04:57PM (#10454139)
    Look, I am not a Mac zealot. I toy with the idea of picking one up every now and then but it quickly goes away when I realize that I just don't need one; my (Linux and Windows) PCs work just fine.

    However, I still to this day use my Newton. Sure I have started to use the iPaq a little more out of convenience (it syncs with my employer's Outlook) but it just means that I now use two PDAs; everything else is done on my Newton.

    I've tried the Palm and Pocket PC as replacements but they are just lacking. I still continue to carry my Newton with me along with my laptop and my iPaq.

    Honestly though, I would like to get rid of it. I love the functionality but the hardware is aging. Batteries are nearly impossible to find. I know that any sort of repair service is out of the question.

    What I would like is a tablet Mac. This could not only replace the Newton but my laptop as well. All the functionality of the Newton and the Mac OSX would be It may even be able to replace the iPaq, which would really be great. Then I think about how a tablet PC could replace my laptop and my iPaq and wonder how long I can wait.

    Unfortunately, the only thing stopping me from purchasing a tablet Mac is that Apple doesn't make them. Apple needs to realize that if they don't start releasing tablet Macs then the people who want a tablet system will go to Microsoft. Sadly, many of the people who do want a tablet system are the geeks, artists, and educators who traditionally fall into the Apple camp.

Trap full -- please empty.