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Remembering The Apple Newton : Apple's First Smartphone

In August of 2013, we are on the verge of the next big unveil by Apple. Maybe it's the 5C, or iPhone 6, maybe the 5S. No one is 100% sure. Needless to say whichever phone does come next, it'll borrow from the iPhone 4S, which borrowed from the 4 and so on. But where did the original iPhone come from? Well that my friends can be partly answered with the Apple Newton.

In 1991, the Newton was pitched to John Sculley, then the CEO of Apple. It was envisioned as a new class of hand-held computing. A device that could take notes, store contacts, manage calendars, send faxes, and even transpose your hand writing, done with a stylus, into a digital format. It featured what designers called the "batman design". It was dark, sleek, and most importantly fit in your pocket. 20 years ago this week, the device hit store shelves. That's where the apple fell too hard on this Newton.

The device, which released in 1993, was barely working when it was sent to production. Features like the handwriting recognition were ridiculed in the media. A comic, published nationally, famously ran a series on mis-identified words with the Newton. It was most famously known for mistaking "Catching on?" with "egg freckles", sparking hilarity and even leading to an Easter Egg in future software designs of the device.

But, as much as the public laughed at the device, there was one person who hated the Newton more than anyone else. Steve Jobs. When Jobs was able to regain control of the company he took massive pleasure in canning it. His biggest complaint? The stylus. He was quoted as saying "God gave us ten stylus'" when asked to reflect on the failure that was the Newton and its hobbled input mechanism.

Now, what does this have to do with the iPhone? Well, the obvious connection is that both devices are mobile computing platforms designed by Apple. Through trial and error (the Newton) Apple was able to learn how to get it right and drop the stylus. But, on a deeper level the development of the Newton kickstarted the development of the ARM Processor, a piece of technology that may have fallen by the wayside if not picked up by Apple to build their mobile computers.

It may not have been pretty, and it may have been stubborn, but the Newton certainly paved the way for the mobile computing advances we enjoy today. It seems the Apple didn't fall too far from the tree when it came to the iPhone.

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