The write stuff

E-mail: Apple's first Newton won poor marks for handwriting. Will its new Messagepad work better? By Cliff Joseph

Few computer products can have suffered as much ridicule in recent years as Apple's Newton. Intended as a kind of electronic Filofax and notebook, Apple hoped that the Newton would create a new category of computer product which it referred to as the "personal digital assistant".

The key feature that was supposed to make the Newton different from other hand-held computers was its handwriting recognition. Instead of using a keyboard, the Newton had a small stylus that allowed the user to write on to its screen. It would then translate your writing into a text file that it could store in its memory.

Unfortunately, the handwriting recognition in the first Newton was so unreliable that it was virtually useless. The device was slated in newspapers and magazines worldwide, and even earned a few mocking appearances in the Doonesbury cartoon strip.

Last year, the company came out with an improved version, called Newton 2.0. The handwriting recognition was vastly improved and encouraged Apple to continue further development. Now Apple is about to launch two new Newton products that take the technology even further.

The first, called the Messagepad 2000, looks very similar to the original Newton. The screen has been rotated by 90 degrees to make it wider and easier for writing on, but the most important differences are all inside. The computer chip used in the original Newton products was designed by a British company called Advanced RISC Machines (ARM). This has been replaced by a new chip called StrongARM, jointly developed by ARM and the Digital Equipment Corporation.

The StrongARM chip is eight times faster than its predecessor, making the handwriting recognition much more responsive. The screen resolution has also been increased, allowing it to display more complex graphics. New Internet software has been built into it so that the new MessagePad can even be used to view the pages of the World Wide Web.

The StrongARM chip is also powerful enough to perform digital sound recording. You can record spoken messages and store them in memory, ready to be played back whenever you want. These new features make the MessagePad a much more versatile and useful device than before, and it's certainly no longer the laughing stock it used to be.

It's also more expensive, though. The new MessagePad will cost pounds 800-pounds 900, so Apple will initially attempt to sell it to specialist business and technical users. But to get the Newton technology used more widely, Apple plans to produce less expensive designs aimed at particular types of users.

With that in mind, the second device, provisionally called the E-Mate 300, is less expensive and has been designed specifically for use in schools.

The E-Mate is a genuinely eye-catching piece of industrial design. In a complete departure from all the other Newton designs, it is a clam-shaped unit, complete with a moulded handle that makes it look more like a handbag than a computer. The upper part of the unit is semi-transluscent and folds open to reveal a keyboard and a larger screen. Returning to a keyboard might seem like a backward step, but the E-Mate is primarily intended to be used on a classroom desk rather than as a hand-held device. The stylus is still there, though, if anyone does want to use the machine's handwriting recognition abilities.

The E-Mate comes with a built-in wordprocessor and drawing program as well as Internet software, so it will function as a complete mini-computer that can be used for writing essays and reports and for surfing the Internet.

It doesn't have a microphone for digital recording, so the E-Mate can use a less expensive version of the original ARM chip. Apple estimates that its price will be "well under $1,000 in the US", which means approximately pounds 500-pounds 600 in the UK.

Apple recognises that the bureaucracy involved in selling computers to UK schools means that the E-Mate may take time some time to gain acceptance. However, the device costs considerably less than a conventional PC, and if Tony Blair wins the general election E-Mate might fit in nicely with his plans for connecting schools to the Internet and giving pupils access to computers.

Who knows, after the launch of E-Mate, Apple might be rooting for a Labour victory.

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas