Nostalgia project connects Apple Newton devices to OS X

Nostalgia project connects Apple Newton devices to OS X

Summary: Apple's Newton was the butt of many jokes back in the 1990s, but there are fans still for the MessagePad and eMate devices. You can still connect them to a modern Mac running OS X Mountain Lion.

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Developer Matt Gemmell recently wrote a fun post in his blog about connecting a Newton eMate 300 to a modern Mac. The setup required the use of a serial cable and a serial-to-USB adapter as well as the Newton Connection for Mac OS X software. Gemmell describes the process in detail.

In addition, Gemmell offers some excellent advice about orphaned software: get it while it's available and don't assume that you can find it in the cloud on some future date.

Firstly, as with any retro technology, if you have a Newton and think you’ll ever want to connect it to your modern Mac, I’d advise you to download the relevant software and drivers right now, while they’re still available. It’s probably also a good time to obtain the necessary cable and adapter. If you wait a few years, it’ll probably become a lot more difficult.

He points out that the Einstein Project lets developers run the NewtonOS in emulation on various platforms including iPhones, iPads and Macs.

Of course, anyone can run it if they want to, but they will have to jailbreak their devices to do it, since the emulator requires users to upload a Newton ROM image. (Neither Apple or I approve of jailbreaking.) This is one reason that it was rejected by the iTunes Store — another being that Apple likely didn't want a whole OS and app platform running on iOS devices, even as a curiosity and even if it came from Apple.

I liked this bit about launching Einstein on an iPhone or iPad.

When you launch iEinstein with ROM installed for the first time, it will need to set up the entire Newton system. It will take up to a minute until the Newton logo shows and another minute until you are finally asked to input some personal information.

Don't bother setting the date: NewtonOS has a bug and can not support dates after January 2010. There is a patch available which may or may not work with the emulator.

Eventually, Notes will show icon bar at the bottom of the screen and you can write text, and run other packages available online. Neat! This is almost something that might make me want to jailbreak my iPad. Maybe when I graduate up to the new iPad, I will make my old iPad a Newton. A useful reuse and upcycling of older hardware and software.

Topics: Apple, iOS, iPhone, iPad, Operating Systems

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5 comments
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  • newton

    Newton got killed when SJ returned to Apple
    ThinkFairer8
    • And was missed by few...

      Only a scant few ever embraced it, so it wasn't really missed. Good call by SJ. The resources were put to better use elsewhere in the company and his focus brought them back from the dead.
      BillDem
  • Einstein blah

    Too bad the developer of Einstein turned their backs on the iOS version and stopped enhancing them after Apple did not let them into the App Store. The developer then continued to enhance the Android version as a "FU" to Apple. The app is a great feat in reverse programming. The developer of Einstein also will defend his stance with oddball comments that contradict themselves when asked if the iOS version is at the same par as the Android version. He wants to keep his reverse engineering project going while knowing he has to illegally copy the Newton ROM and pass it around in order to make this application work. IT is very easy to find the Newton ROM on the internet now thanks to him. This is all documented on the Newtonlist listserv in their archive if you look for it.
    TimeForAChangeToBetter
    • Einstein blah

      Just for the record: There isn't "the" developer. There are two geniuses who did most of the difficult stuff, and there's a handful of moderately intelligent people (like yours truly) who take care of the other things.

      We did not exactly turn our backs on the iOS version. The problem ist that we all need to feed our families. Developing Newton emulators does not really help in that aspect. Working on a job that's PAID does.

      Unfortunately, jobs that are paid have a tendency to require a lot of one's time. So does family. Having to sleep almost every other night doesn't help, either. This is why the majority of Einstein developers work on this project at times when they should have been in bed for hours.

      The reason why, at least for the time being, the backs are turned on the iOS version is not a "FU" to Apple. Apple made this amazing machine possible. Without Apple there'd be no Apple Newton and hence no Einstein Emulator in the first place.

      One of the reasons why the iOS development of Einstein is currently on hold is the fact that Apple makes it so darn difficult and costly to develop, test and debug. At least when it comes to testing and debugging on real hardware. Android is way better in this aspect. So why waste one's limited time and money on developing for a platform whose owners have let you know unequivocally that they'll never allow the product you're working on across the threshold of their app store? We've been there, we've done that, we've failed miserably.

      As for "illegal" ROM copies: It is true that Einstein only works with a Newton 2000 or 2100 ROM image. But this image has never been, and will never be, distributed with Einstein unless Apple officially allows this, which in my humble and admittedly utterly unimportant opinion is highly unlikely.

      People who want to set Einstein up must OWN a Newton. A Newton as in "a real and working Newton MessagePad 2000 or 2100". Apart from that, they must own a PCMICA WifFi card. There's a Newton application that must be installed on said hardware. When started, it will send the Newton's ROM data via WiFi to a desktop computer. This is the only officially supported way to get at a ROM image.

      That doesn't mean it's the only way. It's just the only officially supported way. You could, of course, download the Newton Toolkit, which has been available for free from Apple's download page for ages. This software comes with ROM map files for all Newton models ever built. These files can't be fed into Einstein directly, but any software developer worth his (sorry, gals, almost forgot: or her) salary wouldn't have much trouble making this happen.

      I wouldn't be surprised if someone or other has by now uploaded a ROM image sent via the Newton application to said someone or other's desktop computer. But it's kinda difficult for Einstein developers to prevent this.

      Frank, who does occasionally have the pleasure of trading much-needed sleep in for some Einstein work.

      -- Newton software and hardware at http://www.pda-soft.de
      FrankGr
      • FrankGr thanks for replying but reality is different than theory

        Not true. I don't own a Newton and have downloaded a working ROM from the Internet to allow Einstein to run. No Newton was needed to secure the ROM. I understand from the Einstein developer(s) there is an official way to get the ROMs. In the real world we all know there will be legions of people putting them up as the software does nothing to check that a physical Newton was used. Still a good piece of software to use if you have a spare hour or two.

        "People who want to set Einstein up must OWN a Newton. A Newton as in "a real and working Newton MessagePad 2000 or 2100". Apart from that, they must own a PCMICA WifFi card. There's a Newton application that must be installed on said hardware. When started, it will send the Newton's ROM data via WiFi to a desktop computer. This is the only officially supported way to get at a ROM image. "
        TimeForAChangeToBetter