[NTLK] Very ambitious idea for 2011 Newton mods

Michael L'Heureux michael.lheureux at gmail.com
Mon Nov 21 15:34:43 EST 2011

Glad this topic has generated some discussion :-).

To respond to some of the concerns:


  1.. e-Ink has slow refresh rates.  Might make HWR painful.

Its been done.  E-Ink is painfully slow for full-screen refresh, but
refreshing parts of the screen is not so bad: the iRex DR1000S has a stylus
& an e-Ink screen for note-taking, but no HWR:

Also, lots of Chinese e-Readers use e-Ink screens for Chinese character
HWR.  Here's a video of one that also has English HWR.  The interface seems
a bit unresponsive near the beginning of the video, but gets better towards
the end:

This device would be the ideal form-factor for what I'm thinking about for
the Newton: relatively thin, light and very readable.

I think battery life becomes less of a concern for a device such as the
Newton whose battery lasts for days/weeks/months instead of hours (like
most other devices).  That having been said, there is no reason why a
non-AA-type battery could not be removable & externally charged.  Granted,
you would lose the ability to grab some cheap AA's at a convenience stores
in an emergency.  Of course, there's always going to be some trade-off:
bulk & weight vs. convenience.  Digital cameras are a good example of a
platform where this trade-off has been made & its not so bad.  This mod
would not be for everyone: people who really care about being able to pop
in AA's, obviously wouldn't go for it.  Those of us who want a more
portable solution would.


 The slots have ensured that the Newton has withstood the test of time.

In almost all cases, the PC-Card slots have become useful for only 3
things: storage, WiFi & Bluetooth.  I'm sure there'll be people who'll
chime in about some other obscure uses, but for almost everyone else, its
these 3 cases.  If these are taken care of, then you don't need the slots,
IMO.  Look, no one's pining for slots on the iPad, for example :-).  As for
future expandability, I think that's not realistic: most PC Cards are
32-bit CardBus (which is incompatible with the Newton) or ExpressCards
(which are also incompatible).  Anything new, moving forward, will likely
not be compatible with the Newton.

 schematics for the Newton logic board [...]

Yes, as someone pointed out, I was actually referring to Frank's scans of
the logic board, available at:

 Are you planning on licensing this through Apple?

This is not a plan, but rather a loose set of ideas.  Of course, it would
be a hobbyist's project with no real commercial potential.  There would
probably be no real mass market for something like this, even though it
might attract some interest from people who've used the Newton in the past
& would like to get back into it.  Since it would use existing hardware &
not distribute the Newton ROM or anything that belongs to Apple, I don't
see there being any legal issues.  Projects like the ModBook Pro (
www.axiotron.com) run in a similar vein & haven't been shut down by Apple

 Would it not be simplest to develop a program compatible with modern
> tablets?

The problem is that emulation speeds are very poor on modern tablets, to
the point of being unusable & also, there is no good means of getting data
in & out of the emulator, which severely limits its usefulness.  I could be
wrong on this one, but is there any tablet out there that can run Einstein
at full speed?  And, what about transferring notes, etc?

 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
> possible.

I agree 100%.  That's why I think Bluetooth is a really good option, even
to the point of excluding WiFi, if neccessary... except if you exclude
WiFi, you lose email (I won't even comment on web browsing, since the
modern web on the Newton is unusable for all intents & purposes).

 So why couldn't something like the PC-Card
> format be used to add Bluetooth and Wifi capacity to our Newton:TNG?

One potential option is CompactFlash, which some PocketPC's used for WiFi
cards, etc., back in the day.  But today, even that's more bulky than it
needs to be.  Look at the size of today's USB bluetooth adaptors, for
example.  A small board/chip that interfaces directly with the Newton logic
board would be a much better way to go, IMO.

 Right enough, the current serial port could be replaced.

 The serial port should be replaced with USB for simple communication and
> charging. There are a lot of functions that simply don't work via network.


 This would all be a fantastic task for a group of electronics interns or
> students.

Google Summer of Code?  (or something similar) :-D

Thanks again for everyone's feedback on this!


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