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Wednesday
Mar242004

A Palm User's Newton Notes

Today I wanted to post a few brief notes after playing with the Newton 130 Sammy McLoughlin sent me a few weeks back. Coming from a long-time Palm PDA user, I thought these might be interesting. Or maybe not.

Size and Weight: The Newton is Honkin' BIG and HEAVY! We're talking 3 times the size of my Tungsten E here! I could certainly see problems shoving this Newt in my pocket for a shopping trip. Still, when I turn this observation around, at the time it was probably considered small compared to the svelte Powerbook Duo line. So, I guess size and weight depend some on perspective.

Handwriting recognition: HWR seems to work decently, though the Newt 130's processor is so glacially slow, I could probably brew a cup of tea while it processes each sentence. My friend Andy says the Newton 2100 was a vast improvement on translation speed, having 4 times the RAM and a much faster ARM processor (200MHz).

Color: It's green. Very odd for an electronic device IMO. Everything in that period of time (1996) was gray or black or maybe silver. So I found it intriguing that the Newton line is a very nice British Racing Green color. I like it.

Data Secure: It is very hard to wipe data off the Newton. Since the Newt uses internal Flash RAM, when you enter something, it stays, dog-gone-it! Unlike our Palm OS devices which wipe out with a draining of the battery life, a Newt can survive complete battery wipe out with no problems whatsoever. Now this is a feature I would absolutely love in a Palm OS device. So, PalmOne and Sony, why can't Flash RAM be used in new devices? It must be really cheap right now. Huh? ;-)

UI Design: The Newton is very humane and has a sense of humor. When I reset the device and entered my information, I was impressed with the little touches, like newton illustrations, and other niceties that made me feel like human beings and not robots built the Newt.

I am still coming to grips with the UI approach as it is very different than the Palm OS -- there is no Applications launcher and things are in different places than I am used to. Still, it is an interesting exercise to look around and see just how differently the Newt is from Palm devices, and how it is similar.

I am still unsure that my Newton 130 will be at all practical. I've considered a Newton Keyboard, but I have heard these are not perfect, and to top that off, getting text into the Mac seems like an exercise in twirling baling wire and duct tape to make the conversion. We'll see.

Worst case I get a chance to explore the Newton and have a fun device for Nathan to play with when he gets to the age where he can appreciate it.

Thanks Sammy! :-)

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