New York Times Looks At Newton Users Of Today

Appleis trendsetting, yet long-discontinued, Newton personal digital assistant is still used by some, according to a New York Times article we found republished in the San Jose Mercury News. The article looks at the history of the Newton, as well as current fans of the Newton and what they do with their little machines. Such things as the care and repair of Newtons and coaxing them to play MP3s are covered, and the article ends with the obligatory "comeback rumors." From the Times article:

The original Newton MessagePad, released in 1993, met with more criticism than acclaim. Like the current generation of Windows tablet computers, the Newton replaced the keyboard with handwriting input. But the first version of the handwriting recognition software was so poor at converting usersi scribbles to text that it became the butt of jokes.

That problem was solved and updated models followed, but price (some versions topped US$1,000) was a persistent problem as other manufacturers introduced cheaper alternatives. In 1998, shortly after he returned to Apple, Steve Jobs pulled the plug on the Newton line.

In 2001, two marketing professors, Albert M. Muniz Jr. of DePaul University in Chicago and Hope Jensen Schau of Temple University in Philadelphia, jointly began studying the Newton holdouts. "The Newton community had been abandoned by its marketer, so the users had been forced to do a lot of the duties of the manufacturer," Muniz said.

Sticking with the technology is frequently "a point of pride" among the 80 or so Newton users he has interviewed, Muniz said. But he has also found that most are demanding computer users with up-to-date desktop machines. "Theyire not Luddites," he said. "They firmly believe the Newton is the best device." Indeed, Muniz himself has joined the ranks of the converted. He bought a secondhand Newton (available for US$100 to US$300) to help him understand the community he is researching. Soon the Newton had replaced his own Palm.

You can read the full article at the San Jose Mercury Newsi Web site.