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Object Timeline

1993

  • Work on this object began.

2009

  • We acquired this object.

2011

2019

  • You found it!

Newton MessagePad Personal Digital Assistant, 1993

This is a Personal digital assistant. It was manufactured by Apple Inc.. It is dated 1993 and we acquired it in 2009. Its medium is plastic. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

Apple Computer Inc. has been at the forefront of product and digital design since the mid-1980s. Apple’s Newton MessagePad personal digital assistant (PDA), released in 1993, is among the early generation of PDAs—a type of hand-held computer also known as a palmtop. The first PDA was produced by Casio in 1983, followed by examples from other manufacturers such as Acer, Blackberry, and Palm. The term “PDA” was coined in 1992 by Apple’s then-CEO, John Sculley, when he was referring to the Newton at a consumer electronics show.
A hallmark of Apple’s design ethos has been its concern for creating objects that are comfortable, aesthetically appealing, and easy to use—both in terms of hardware and software. The Newton exemplifies this approach: its lightweight tablet form features a large screen designed for ease of reading and entering data with the touch of a stylus. The stylus is conveniently housed in a holder along the Newton’s right side. Interaction is accomplished by tapping the screen with the stylus to activate on-screen menu choices or buttons. Text is inputted using a virtual keyboard on the screen and tapping the letters. Like other PDAs, the Newton has email and fax capabilities and a personal organizer (calendar, names, and to-do lists). What set the Newton apart was its ambitious, innovative handwriting recognition technology: the user could write directly on the screen with the stylus and the Newton would learn to read the user’s writing.
When it was released in 1993, the Newton was enthusiastically received. Initially, the handwriting recognition software did not work as accurately as intended, but the issues were quickly resolved and the MessagePads were produced until 1998, when the line was discontinued shortly after Apple co-founder Steve Jobs returned as CEO. The pioneering Newton technology laid the groundwork for some of Apple’s later innovations, such as Apple’s groundbreaking iPhone.

It is credited Gift of Joan Heitzeberg.

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Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 18.4 x 11.4 x 2.2 cm (7 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 7/8 in.)

Cite this object as

Newton MessagePad Personal Digital Assistant, 1993; Manufactured by Apple Inc. (United States); USA; plastic; H x W x D: 18.4 x 11.4 x 2.2 cm (7 1/4 x 4 1/2 x 7/8 in.); Gift of Joan Heitzeberg; 2009-31-1-a,b

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18733519/ |title=Newton MessagePad Personal Digital Assistant, 1993 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=16 July 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>