[NTLK] Very ambitious idea for 2011 Newton mods

Lord Groundhog LordGroundhog at gmail.com
Mon Nov 21 11:34:33 EST 2011

~~~ On 2011/11/21 13:36, William T at wllm_t at yahoo.com wrote ~~~

> Just a few comments:
> I like the AA trays. The Newton never dies, it just requires new batteries.
> Are you planning on licensing this through Apple? 
> 3D printing is rather expensive on a per unit basis, if you are planning a
> bulk order, then you would need a considerable amount of capital.
> By eliminating the serial port you make current accessories useless.
> Every great thing starts as an idea,
> William ;)
> <snip>

This should feed into our ongoing (very informal) super-thread which I like
to think of as "Newton: The Next Generation", aka "NewtonC21", aka
"iNewton", and all the other names given by various Newtonians over the
years.   :-)  

Just because I have my own imaginary "Newton: TNG" that I play with in my
head in spare moments, here are some comments:

1. I agree that the e-ink screen isn't going to work for this.  Readability
isn't the whole story for a display where HWR is concerned.  The screen
needs to be very quick and responsive, and has to allow for quite fine
resolution of the pixels, for those of us who currently like to use the
Newton's pen setting on a single pixel (especially important when using the
Shapes and Sketches functions to make small drawings, and in the case of
someone like me, all the time because of my bad handwriting).

I'm not even sure what kind of display technology we should look for here:
the legibility of modern smart phone screens is something to covet, but not
their battery depletion.   And to summarize a discussion (read: "argument")
I've often had with friends who use iPhones, I find no comparison between
writing with a Newton-like stylus on our current "resistive touch screen"
and writing either with one's finger or one of those new-fangled styli for
use on the "capacitive touch screens" used by smart phones.  I don't have an
answer for this problem but I certainly do have a problem with it.  (For the
record, I have tried such writing on these capacitive screens, and given up
because of the inadequacy of the results.)

2. I'm with William on the AA batteries although I understand your aim in
replacing them.  There have been times when I've been in out-of-the-way
places where I couldn't recharge a rechargeable battery or battery pack,
sometimes for an extended time.  On all such occasions it is still possible
somehow to find a set of AA cells to put into the battery cage:  they're
practically universal.

The problem I have with AA cells isn't weight but the resultant thickness of
the device.  In terms of bang-for-buck -- or power for gram in this case --
Li-ion AAs still are serious power sources, especially when you add the
convenience and universality of them.  My question is:  where are we
supposed to we put them?

3. I like the on-board wifi and Bluetooth as an idea.  Now comes a big
"BUT".   Given the way technology goes racing on, unless we're talking about
some kind of official revival of the manufacture of N:TNG (which I think
we're not) things with built-in obsolescence should be limited as much as

For example, even in the past few years, the wifi standard has moved through
B and G to N, and will move on again before too long.  It's only a matter of
time before compatability with routers using older standards slip from the
status of legacy equipment to "can I still find one of those on eBay?"
bluetooth likewise is evolving.

So I'd like to find some way to incorporate current communications that
wouldn't preclude swift and easy (and inexpensive) switch-over to the next
generation of these communications methods, and the adoption of new methods
as they arise.  Stuff that plugs in may be the way forward here, if we can
think of a way to do it.

Little ironic side note:  I can imagine that those old PCMCIA cards would be
ideal for many things.  For example, if they could be adapted with the right
circuitry and then supported with the correct drivers, I can imagine them
being used in our existing Newts to create a "socket" into which to plug in
a SIM card to turn my MP2100 into a phone, or to plug in a micro-SD card or
other similar card into storage.  So why couldn't something like the PC-Card
format be used to add Bluetooth and Wifi capacity to our Newton:TNG?  Crazy
idea, but I'm flying a kite.

4. Right enough, the current serial port could be replaced.  A few years ago
I'd have said "Firewire", but plainly that has turned out to be less
long-lived that we might've hoped.  As for the semi-mythical Thunderbolt
connectivity, I'm not convinced we want to incorporate £40 cables.  So, USB
with the micro-port for the N:TNG?  Sounds good to me, but ...

IR is old now; I've stopped using it because I found it so cranky to get
working.  I'd be surprised if there aren't folks on this list who still use
it, love it, and would hate to lose it, but I'm not among their number.

6. Again, in theory, I agree, but in practice I see the same problem William
highlights.  Of course, if Apple Inc would just wake up and see the Newton,
they'd hand this problem over to Jonathan Ives and the manufacturing
department and this problem (and the others) would go away.

But since Apple isn't showing any interest in our project, I reckon I'll
just say that a variety of modern devices have shown us what's possible in
the realm of making something sleek and beautiful and yet also
feature-packed.  The real issue here is what we can accomplish doing it on
our own.  

Yeah, I love my Newts.  But yeah, I'd love to see a modern iteration of the
Newt form-factor, functionality and versatility that will see us well into
the 21st century.  


~~~ ~~~ ~~~

³Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from a Newton.²
            -- ref.:  Arthur C. Clarke

(With thanks to Chod Lang)

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
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