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Tech Time Travel: Apple Newton Discontinued

Newton walked so iPhone could run.
Ryan Uliss
Contributing Writer
The image shows an Apple Newton MessagePad 2100, a handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) designed and marketed by Apple Computer in the late 1990s.

The Apple Newton‘s discontinuation on February 27, 1998 closed the chapter on the world’s first personal digital assistant (PDA), but it also laid the groundwork for the incredible smartphones and tablets we use today. Despite its struggles and ultimate failure, Newton’s innovative design and capabilities—such as note-taking, digital scheduling, contact storage, and even faxing—propelled the industry towards the concept of computing mobility.

Introduced in 1993, the Newton was a harbinger of mobile computing, fitting into pockets while offering functionalities that were ahead of its time. Its stylus-based operation and handwriting recognition, despite their initial flaws, marked a significant step in human-computer interaction. Unfortunately, these same features, particularly the flawed handwriting recognition, became the butt of jokes and user frustration, leading to its short-lived market presence.

The Newton’s Demise and Steve Jobs’ Decision

Steve Jobs’ return to Apple in 1997 brought a renewed focus on streamlining and profitability, resulting in Newton’s termination among various other cuts. Despite improvements in the Newton OS and accessory options like external keyboards, the device could not compete with the emerging Palm Pilot and suffered from lackluster sales due to its steep price.

The Newton’s Influence on Modern Devices

The demise of Newton was far from the end of its influence. The Apple team that worked on the Newton contributed significantly to the development of the iPhone and iPad. The ARM technology, developed for the Newton to ensure its compact size and efficient power consumption, has become a cornerstone in modern mobile processors.

The Newton’s features have echoed through Apple’s product line, with capabilities like the comprehensive search function and handwriting recognition evolving and integrating into current devices like Macs, iPhones, and iPads, the latter even reviving the stylus concept with the Apple Pencil.

The Wrap

On this 26th anniversary of its end, the Apple Newton is remembered not for its immediate impact but for setting the trajectory of mobile computing. Its bold foray into pocket-sized devices paved the way for the ubiquitous smartphones and tablets that are now central to our daily lives, making it a foundational pillar in the evolution of portable technology.

Go Deeper –> Apple Discontinued the Newton 25 Years Ago: Here’s What Happened to it Since – MUO

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