Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

Newton MessagePad: On The Bleeding Edge

The Apple Newton MessagePad was one of the first mainstream PDAs(Personal Digital Assistant). Newton captured the imagination of journalists when it was first shown in 1993. For a while it seemed that touch-screen tablets were poised to take over the computing world.

Most people know the MessagePad as the Newton, although that was merely the name of its operating system. Even though it looks like something fresh from Steve Job’s imagination, the Newton was released five years before he returned to Apple as interim-CEO in 1997. Interestingly, it was Jobs himself who terminated the Netwon project in March 1997, as an attempt to cut costs at the then cash-strapped company.

The original MessagePad used an ARM 610 RISC processor at 20 MHz, with 482K of system memory, and 158K of non-volatile user memory. Applications and the operating system were stored in 4MB of read-only memory. The 336x240 pixel display was reflective – no fancy backlighting or color here. Later versions (such as the 2000 series) offered larger backlit displays and up to 8MB RAM.

While some users became devout MessagePad disciples, the Newton ultimately proved to be a slow-burning failure. I think there were several reasons: priced at $700, the original unit was too expensive to become a geek stocking stuffer. They was too bulky and heavy to slip into a pocket (later MessagePad models weighed as much as 1.4 lbs and measured a pocket-unfriendly 8.3 x 4.7 inches). Perhaps most damaging to Newton's reputation, the handwriting recognition on early models was renowned for its inaccuracy (even though a new print recognition engine was released in Newton 2.0)

[Update: Evan from  Computer Collector Newsletter emailed me a couple of days ago to point out that the Newton was definitely not the first pen-based programmable PDA. He listed several examples of prior art, such as the Casio/Tandy Zoomer (a forerunner to the Palm Pilot) and Sony's very neat looking PTC-500 PalmTop that was marketed in Japan in the very early 90s. The Newton was, however, the only one of these products to benefit from a sustained marketing campaign from Apple. He's got an excellent overview of the history of all-things PDA on his site.]

Apple Newton MessagePad (Apple Museum)
Apple's Newton Just Won't Drop (WIRED News)


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