The Newton, The First PDA:    2 of 11 
Getting In on the Ground Floor
Author: Paul Potts
Date: August 1993
Topics: The Newton Launch, Third Party Developers
Summary: A young third-party developer describes his enthusiasm about the Newton launch. From Usenet.

Two co-workers and I drove all the way to Boston (14+ hours on the road), spent the night in a camper-van in a state park campground, and made dozens of phone calls to get into the Newton launch, get to MacWorld, and ensure that we got our own MessagePads.

Two of us shelled out the cost of the development kit, out of our own money. We hung around a little longer and got what we could out of MacWorld, then we drove all night and got back to Ann Arbor by noon on Wednesday, rather exhausted, but happy.


We were very excited by the prospect of getting our hands on some really new technology from Apple. I was very interested in getting in on the ground floor, or near-ground floor, of Newton development. I never had a chance to go to the original Mac launch in 1984, nor was I able to get involved in development early on. Now, 9 years later, Apple has released some radically new technology, with a radically new development environment, which combines a lot of the features that so interest me about C++, Smalltalk, and Dylan, but without a lot of the pain and suffering. (Having done development in C, C++, Hypercard, Visual BASIC, Toolbook, etc., on both Macs and PCs, I feel I'm qualified to comment here).

We were expecting that the first release of any radically new design would have some bugs. It does. We were not expecting the Newton to be as easy to use as a pad of paper. It isn't. I'm certainly not advocating that people not criticize its flaws. (After all, I'm collecting bug lists). But it is an amazing little device, with an amazing architecture and a really wild programming environment. And soon it will be a family of devices. I'm hoping to release some of the first freeware for the Newton, and to become an expert on programming it, staying involved on Usenet, and perhaps working with the University on Newton projects in the future. And then I'll be able to say that I had some very small involvment in helping Apple pull this thing off.

So, I do have a personal interest in seeing Newton succeed, but it is more than around $1400. I also think that tools like C++ and Visual BASIC are good, but they are not going to take us to the level of productivity and hipness that programmers need to write the next generation of software. And it is clear that Apple isn't going to keep the 68000-based, non-preemptive, non-protected-memory Macintosh going forever. Newton provides a glimpse of some of the technologies that I imagine will show up in future systems throughout Apple's product lineup, and into the PowerPC and Pink designs. So getting involved in Newton is hedging a career bet as well.

No, I'm not impartial. Who is? Everyone has an axe to grind; the EO supporters want to see EO succeed; the Geos and PenPoint supporters would like to see their environment succeed over Apple's. I'd like to see Apple's environment succeed, partly because with cross-licensing arrangements I think it could do very well. And, it really got a lot of comments to pull out my Newton on the bus the day after it was released and write on it, or sit in a cafe and put entries in the Names application!

LISP: The root of Newton Toolkit
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You're Not Supposed to Lose Data

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