Apple Newton and iPhone.jpg
The Apple Newton MessagePad 2100, a 1997 model, running Newton OS, alongside the original iPhone from 2007 running iOS
DeveloperApple Computer, Inc.
TypeBar PDA
Release dateMay 29, 1992 (1992-05-29) (announced)[1]
August 3, 1993 (1993-08-03) (released)[2]
DiscontinuedFebruary 27, 1998 (1998-02-27)
Operating systemNewton OS
InputTouch screen

The Newton is a series of personal digital assistants (PDAs) developed and marketed by Apple Computer, Inc. An early device in the PDA category (the Newton originated the term),[3] it was the first to feature handwriting recognition. Apple started developing the platform in 1987 and shipped the first devices in August 1993. Production officially ended on February 27, 1998. Newton devices ran on a proprietary operating system, Newton OS; examples include Apple's MessagePad series and the eMate 300, and other companies also released devices running on Newton OS. Most Newton devices were based on the ARM 610 RISC processor and all featured handwriting-based input.

The Newton was considered technologically innovative at its debut, but a combination of factors, including its high price and early problems with its handwriting recognition feature, limited its sales. This led to Apple ultimately discontinuing the platform at the direction of Steve Jobs in 1998, a year after his return to the company.

Three Newton MessagePad devices with keyboard and LinearFlash PCMCIA memory card accessories
Three Newton MessagePad devices with keyboard and LinearFlash PCMCIA memory card accessories


The custom ASIC chip inside the original Apple Newton H1000
The custom ASIC chip inside the original Apple Newton H1000
Inside the Apple Newton Messagepad H1000, with back cover removed
Inside the Apple Newton Messagepad H1000, with back cover removed
The original color Apple logo on the Newton
The original color Apple logo on the Newton

The Newton project was a personal digital assistant platform. The PDA category did not exist for most of Newton's genesis, and the phrase "personal digital assistant" was coined relatively late in the development cycle by Apple's CEO John Sculley,[3] the driving force behind the project. Larry Tesler determined that an advanced, low-power processor was needed for sophisticated graphics manipulation. He found Hermann Hauser, who had developed the Acorn RISC Machine that utilized what became known as the ARM architecture, and put together Advanced RISC Machines, now Arm Ltd.[4]

A smaller design was then designed by Jonathan Ive.[5][6]

Although PDAs had been developing since the original Psion Organiser in 1984,[7][8] the Newton has left one particular lasting impression: the term personal digital assistant was first coined to refer to the Newton.[8]

According to former Apple CEO John Sculley, the company invested approximately $100 million to develop Newton.[9]

Later history and cancellation

The Newton was considered innovative at its debut, but it suffered from its high price and problems with the handwriting recognition element, its most anticipated feature. The handwriting software was barely ready by 1993 and its tendency to misread characters was widely derided in the media. This was parodied in The Simpsons episode "Lisa on Ice", where a scene makes fun of the Newton's handwriting recognition turning "Beat up Martin" into "Eat up Martha".[10] Garry Trudeau also mocked the Newton in a weeklong arc of his comic strip Doonesbury, portraying it as a costly toy that served the same function as a cheap notepad, and using its accuracy problems to humorous effect. In one panel, Michael Doonesbury's Newton misreads the words "Catching on?" as "Egg Freckles", a phrase that became widely repeated as symbolic of the Newton's problems. This phrase was subsequently included as a trigger for an Easter egg in later editions of the MessagePad, producing a panel from the strip when it was entered on the device. In acknowledgement of the strip, Apple subsequently gifted a MessagePad to Trudeau.[11] Although the software improved substantially in Newton OS 2.0, it was not enough to inspire strong sales.[12]

The Newton became popular in some industries, notably the medical field. However, the debut of the competing Palm Pilot substantially reduced its market share. Apple struggled to find a new direction for the Newton, and when Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997, he killed the product line. He was critical of the device's weak performance, the management of the development team, and the stylus, which he disliked as it prevented the use of the fingers. He was likely also motivated by the fact that the Newton was the pet project of his old adversary John Sculley. However, Jobs saw potential in the technology and concept, if not the execution, and eventually led Apple to create its multi-touch devices inspired by FingerWorks, the iPhone and iPad.[12][13]

Product details

Application software

Most Newton devices were pre-loaded with a variety of software to aid in personal data organization and management. This included such applications as Notes, Names, and Dates, as well as a variety of productivity tools such as a calculator, conversion calculators (metric conversions, currency conversions, etc), time-zone maps, etc.[14][15][16] In later/2.x versions of the Newton OS these applications were refined, and new ones were added, such as the Works word processor and the Newton Internet Enabler, as well as the inclusion of bundled 3rd party applications, such as the QuickFigure Works spreadsheet (a "lite" version of Pelicanware's QuickFigure Pro), Pocket Quicken, the NetHopper web browser, and the Netstrategy EnRoute email client. Various Newton applications had full import/export capabilities with popular desktop office suite and PIM (Personal Information Manager) application file formats, primarily by making use of Apple's bundled Newton Connection Utilities and also the Newton Connection Kit, which was sold separately and only worked for Newton devices that used the 1.x versions of the Newton OS.[17][18][19][20][21][22]


The Notes application allowed users to create small documents that could contain text that had been typed, or that had been recognized from handwriting, as well as free-hand sketches, "Shapes", and "ink text".[23][15][24][25]

Photograph of screen displaying Checklist, some bullet points checked and/or "collapsed"
Photograph of screen displaying Checklist, some bullet points checked and/or "collapsed"

In version 2.0 of the Newton OS, the Notes application (as well as Names) could accept what Apple termed "stationery", 3rd-party created plug-in modules that could extend the functionality of the basic applications.[23]

One of the new types of Notes stationery added to Newton OS 2.0 was a hierarchical, bullet-ed, collapsible, multi-line "Checklist", an implementation of outliner software.[26][27] This could be used for organizing tasks, "to do" lists, sub-tasks, etc. Each bullet point could contain as many lines of text as desired. A bullet point could be dragged and placed underneath another bullet point, thus forming a hierarchical outline/tree. When a bullet point was dragged, the entire sub-tree of child bullet points underneath it (if any) would be dragged along as well. If a bullet point had child bullet points, tapping the parent's bullet point once would "roll up" all the children ("windowshade" effect). Tapping the parent bullet point again would make the children re-appear.[22] Because this functionality arrived in Newton OS 2.0, several third parties made similar software before for OS 1.x Newton machines, the most notable of which was Dyno Notepad, released in 1993.[26]


The Names application was used for storing contacts. Contacts created either on the Newton device or on a Windows or Macintosh desktop PIM could be synchronized to each other.[28][29][30] Entering a date in Names for fields such as birthday or anniversary automatically created corresponding repeating events in the Dates application.[18][31][21] Each contact had an attached free-form notes field available to it, that could contain any mix of interleaved text, ink text, Shapes, or Sketches.[23] Like Notes, Names could be extended by developers, to create special new categories of contacts with specialized pre-defined fields. Names shipped with three types of contacts, "people", "companies", and "groups", but a developer could define new types, for instance "client", "patient", etc.[22] Stand Alone Software, Inc. also created a Newton software package called the Stationery Construction Kit, which allowed users to make stationery themselves without aid of any other tools.[32]


Dates supplied calendar, events, meeting, and alarms functions, including an integrated "to do" list manager. It offered many different display and navigation styles, including a list view, graphical day "time blocking" view, or a week, month, or year grid. As with Names and Notes, Dates items created either on the Newton or on a Windows or Macintosh desktop PIM could be synchronized to each other.[28][22]

Hardware models

eMate 300
eMate 300

From Apple:

From Motorola:

From Sharp:

From Digital Ocean:

From Siemens:

From Harris:

Operating system and programming environment

NewtonScript is an advanced object-oriented programming language, developed by Apple employee Walter Smith.[38] Some programmers complained about the $1000 cost of the Toolbox programming environment. Additionally, it required learning a new way of programming.

Newton technology after cancellation

Before the Newton project was canceled, it was "spun off" into an Apple wholly owned subsidiary company, Newton Inc.[39][40]

Speculation continued for several years that Apple might release a new PDA with some Newton technology or collaborate with Palm. Feeding a bit of speculation, Apple put the "Print Recognizer" part of the Newton 2.1 handwriting recognition system into Mac OS X v10.2 (known as "Jaguar"). It can be used with graphics tablets to seamlessly input handwritten printed text anywhere there was an insertion point on the screen. This technology, known as "Inkwell", appears in the System Preferences whenever a tablet input device is plugged in. Larry Yaeger was the author of the original Rosetta recognizer on the Newton, and was also responsible for porting it to Mac OS X.[41]

At an All Things Digital conference in 2004, Steve Jobs made reference to a new "Apple PDA" which the company had developed but had decided not to bring to market.[42]

Newton emulation

Since 2004, the Einstein Project[43] has been working on emulating the Newton for use as an alternative OS on other platforms. It is currently available for the Sharp Zaurus, Apple's Mac OS X, Nokia Maemo, Microsoft Windows, and the Pepper Pad 3. The emulator is an open source project, but requires an original Newton ROM to be installed in order to function. iPhones and iPads run Einstein since September 2010. The Android operating system runs Einstein since March 2011.[44]


A possible Newton revival was at one time a common source of speculation among the Macintosh user base. Patent applications were issued for a tablet based Macintosh.[45]

In September 2009, Michael Tchao, who pitched the original Newton concept to John Sculley,[46] returned to Apple.[47] Michael Tchao is now the VP of iPad Product Marketing.[48]


Programs have been written for the Newton since its cancellation,[49] including an RSS reader.[50]

In popular culture

The Apple Newton and its poor handwriting recognition was lampooned on the episode of The Simpsons titled "Lisa on Ice" in 1994.[51]

In the 1995 anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, handheld devices modeled on the Newton can be seen multiple times, serving various internal functions within NERV.[52][better source needed]

In the 1995 film Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, the main character Casey Ryback (Steven Seagal) connects an Apple Newton PDA to the telephone network of the hijacked train on which the film is set, and sends a fax to his workplace, which is then forwarded to Admiral Bates, Ryback's contact at the Pentagon. The hijackers subsequently discover and hack the Newton, thus learning of Ryback's presence on the train.[53][54]

In the 1998 interactive video game The X-Files Game, the main character uses an Apple Newton to make notes, read e-mail and navigate the different locations of the game.[55]

During Apple's March 21, 2016, keynote conference, a celebration video called "40 Years in 40 Seconds" was unveiled. The video featured flashing text of names from Apple's most notable products and taglines in their forty-year history, including Newton. However, in Newton's case, it was the only name depicted in the video being explicitly scratched out, mimicking how users deleted text on the device, and referencing the full cancellation of the product line.[56]

In the TV series For All Mankind season 3, episode 1, an alternative 1992 history Newton MessagePad with backlit (possibly color) display is shown at a briefing scene.[57]

See also


  1. ^ Brown, Marcel (May 29, 2015). "Apple Newton Announced". This Day in Tech History.
  2. ^ a b Luckie, Douglas. "Newton MessagePad". Luckie's Homepage. Michigan State University. Archived from the original on February 26, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Hormby, Tom (August 6, 2013). "The Story Behind Apple's Newton". Low End Mac.
  4. ^ Kuehl Julie; Martellaro, John; Greelish, David (January 13, 2012). "John Sculley: The Truth About Me, Apple, and Steve Jobs Part 2". The Mac Observer. Retrieved January 20, 2012. [...] Larry [Tesler] realized that if you're going to do very sophisticated graphics manipulation on a handheld product, that no processor existed at that time that was both powerful and low powered enough to be able to even attempt that. Larry Tesler found a man in the UK named Hermann Hauser who had founded the Acorn computer company. [...] a new company that we had to put together that was 47 percent owned by Apple, it was 47 percent owned by Olivetti, a name from the past, and the rest of it was owned by Hermann Hauser. And this company we called ARM.
  5. ^ "Who Is Jonathan Ive? An in-depth look at the man behind Apple's design magic". BusinessWeek. September 25, 2006.
  6. ^ "Cyber Elite: Jonathan Ive". Time Digital. 2000. Archived from the original on August 19, 2000.
  7. ^ "PDA". authorSTREAM. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  8. ^ a b History of PDAs blog Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Kawamoto, Dawn (October 2, 2003). "Riding the next technology wave". Newsmaker. CNET. Archived from the original on February 5, 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  10. ^ Hide, Nick (September 23, 2013). "The Simpsons' 'Eat Up Martha' was the first autocorrect fail". CNET. Retrieved August 6, 2019.
  11. ^ Markoff, John (December 18, 1995). "Doonesbury' and Apple Hatch a Comic Surprise". New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  12. ^ a b Evans, David S.; Hagiu, Andrei; Schmalensee, Richard (2008). Invisible Engines: How Software Platforms Drive Innovation and Transform Industries. MIT Press. pp. 159–161. ISBN 978-0262262644.
  13. ^ Honan, Matt (August 5, 2013). "Remembering the Apple Newton's Prophetic Failure and Lasting Impact". WIRED. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  14. ^ "Revisiting the great-grandfather to the iPhone: The Apple Newton". TechRepublic. Archived from the original on December 11, 2021. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  15. ^ a b "Retro Apple: The Apple Newton MessagePad Was Well Ahead of Its Time". Rocket Yard. August 21, 2020.
  16. ^ "Newton MessagePad - 1993". Old Computer Museum.
  17. ^ "Treading Lightly in a Sea of Hand-Held Computers". New York Times.
  18. ^ a b "The Apple Newton MessagePad Review". All Things Digital.
  19. ^ "Today in Apple history: Newton MessagePad reaches new heights". Cult of Mac.
  20. ^ "MessagePad 2000: New Newton Exceeds Expectations". TidBITS. May 12, 1997.
  21. ^ a b "Newton MessagePad". Michigan State Univ. CF Research Laboratory.
  22. ^ a b c d Apple MessagePad Handbook (PDF). Apple Computer. 1995.
  23. ^ a b c "First Look: Newton OS 2.0". Pen Computing.
  24. ^ "Newton MessagePad 120 (with OS 1.3 or 2.0)". Michigan State Univ. CF Research Laboratory.
  25. ^ "Apple Newton H1000 & MessagePad 100 – Specifications".
  26. ^ a b "NEWTON MessagePads Facts and FAQs".
  27. ^ New Features of the Newton 2.0 Operating System. Apple Computer. 1995.
  28. ^ a b "Organized time". InfoWorld. Vol. 16, no. 16. April 18, 1994. p. 81. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  29. ^ Apple Computer. "Newton Connection Utilities ReadMe", Apple, July 24, 1997
  30. ^ Apple Computer. "Newton Connection Utilities Features", Newton Source
  31. ^ "Today in Apple history: Newton MessagePad inspires mobile revolution". Cult of Mac.
  32. ^ "Stationery Construction Kit". Stand Alone, Inc. January 19, 1998. Archived from the original on January 19, 1998. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  33. ^ Luckie, Douglas. "Sharp's Newton ExpertPad". Luckie's Homepage. Michigan State University. Archived from the original on January 29, 1999.
  34. ^ Quinlan, Tom (January 9, 1995). "Newton-based PDA announced". InfoWorld. Vol. 17, no. 2. InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  35. ^ Ortiz, Kedesh. "Back before iPhones and Androids, we had these..." Tech Under The Sun. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  36. ^ "Siemens NotePhone". Siemens NotePhone. August 16, 2013. Retrieved April 11, 2020.
  37. ^ Schmidt, Tim (February 19, 1996). "Discord in hardwareland". Network World. Vol. 13, no. 8. IDG Network World Inc. Retrieved July 18, 2015.
  38. ^ "Walter Smith, software guy". Archived from the original on November 2, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  39. ^ Dormehl, Luke (May 22, 2020). "Today in Apple history: Newton spins off as its own company". Cult of Mac. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
  40. ^ "Newton, Inc Unveils New Corporate Identity and Headquarters". August 6, 1997. Archived from the original on February 4, 1998.
  41. ^ Handwriting Recognition Technology in the Newton's Second Generation "Print Recognizer" (The One That Worked), By Larry Yaeger – Apple Computer, World Wide Newton Conference, September 4–5, 2004, Slides
  42. ^ Jobs: Apple developed, but did not ship Apple PDA, By Kasper Jade, June 7, 2004, AppleInsider
  43. ^ "pguyot/Einstein". GitHub. Retrieved November 10, 2015.
  44. ^ Apple Newton on Android, March 13, 2011, My Apple Newton
  45. ^ "Appleinsider, Euro filing reveals Apple handheld design images, August 13, 2004". Archived from the original on October 18, 2006. Retrieved December 11, 2008.
  46. ^ Remembering the Apple Newton's Prophetic Failure and Lasting Impact, Wired, August 2013,
  47. ^ Stone, Brad (September 28, 2009). "Apple Rehires a Developer of Its Newton Tablet". Bits. New York Times. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  48. ^ "Secret Apple Execs You've Never Heard Of". Business Insider. Retrieved April 21, 2020.
  49. ^ "United Network of Newton Archives". Archived from the original on October 23, 2005. Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  50. ^ "40Hz". Retrieved November 25, 2015.
  51. ^ Evon, Dan (September 26, 2019). "Did 'The Simpsons' Predict Autocorrect?". Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  52. ^ King, Madison. "tweet". Twitter. Retrieved May 17, 2021.
  53. ^ Molinari, Matteo; Kamm, Jim (April 1, 2002). Oops! Movie Mistakes That Made the Cut. Citadel Press. p. 242. ISBN 9780806523194. Archived from the original on May 16, 2022. Retrieved May 16, 2022 – via Google Books.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  54. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 17, 1995). "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory". Archived from the original on June 18, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  55. ^ "Computer X-Files: The game is out there". CNN.
  56. ^ Hackett, Stephen (March 22, 2016) Apple’s ’40 Years in 40 Seconds’ Video Annotated 512 Pixels (blog). Retrieved 2019-10-11
  57. ^ "For All Mankind". Apple.

Newton technical documents for programmers

NewtonScript Programming: NewtonScript is the native programming language for all MessagePads

General historical information on pen computing