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 This has been replaced by a new chip called StrongARM, jointly developed by ARM and the Digital Equipment Corporation.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
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Move from Audit to Advisory

    £45000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Move from Audit to Advisor...

    Management Consultancy - Operational Research Analysts

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: You must ...

    Secondary Teaching Assistant

    £60 - £70 per day: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This outstanding Secondary School...

    Application Support Analyst (MS SQL, java based webserver, batch scripting)

    £36000 - £40000 Per Annum On call allowance.: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
    Supersize art

    Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

    The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    James Dean: Back on the big screen

    As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
    Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

    How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

    More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
    10 best activity books for children

    10 best activity books for children

    Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
    Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

    Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

    Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
    Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

    Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

    Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

    With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
    Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

    NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

    Politicians urged to find radical solution
    Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

    Ukraine crisis

    How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

    A history of the First World War in 100 moments
    Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

    New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

    Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
    Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

    Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

    Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?