Apple’s Newton: the PDA that just won’t die

The New York Times looks at the handheld that just won’t die, Apple’s Newton.

“In 2001, two marketing professors, Albert M. Muniz Jr. of DePaul University 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. ‘They’re not Luddites,’ he said. ‘They firmly believe the Newton is the best device.’ Indeed, Muniz has joined the ranks of the converted. He bought a secondhand Newton (available for $100 to $300) to help him understand the community he is researching. Soon the Newton had replaced his own Palm.”

“‘I really like the large writing screen,’ he said.”

“One design factor has helped owners keep their Newtons up to date. The later models include standard card slots that accept memory cards and a variety of accessories. Many users install an Ethernet card in one slot as a way to synchronize their Newtons with their other computers.”

“Developing the software to make new functions and hardware work is mostly a volunteer effort. Eric Schneck, a computer programmer in Brooklyn who has used Newtons since 1994, wrote a program with Apple’s permission that turns a Newton with a memory card into a full-featured music player that synchronizes with Apple’s iTunes software.”

“Although Newtons are no longer covered by warranties, Apple will repair them. When Rehorst damaged his two years ago, he shipped it to Apple’s Canadian subsidiary. The company sent him what seemed to be a new unit for the equivalent of $127.”

“‘The eternal hope among users is that one day something as good as Newton will be released by Apple,’ Rehorst said.”

Full New York Times article here.

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