January 27, 2011

From MessagePad to iPad: A Love Story

You’re not going to believe this, but I’ve been called an Apple fanboy a few times1.

No shit.

In all truth, fanboism implies a fanaticism I don’t think is accurate to peg me in. While I love Apple products, it’s usually because they make really good ones.

I’ll be the first to agree that they aren’t the best choice for everyone. Even today I’ll recommend an Windows 7 device if you’re an Excel nerd. Or an Android device if you just want a smartphone.

But there is something about the level of detail in Apple products that pushes the enjoyment past the purchase into the usage.

Although many people attribute this to the genius of Steve Jobs, I don’t think that completely fair or accurate.

More than a decade before holding the iPad made me say this is so fucking cool”, another Apple product had me saying it for the first time: the Newton MessagePad 2100.

Newton IpadNewton Ipad

Many have ridiculed the Newton for its handwritten recognition software, which was far from perfect, but still the best for many years to come.

What really took the top prize was the User Interface. At a time when friendly seemed to be the buzzword, the Newton UI was plan natural: deleting a documents crumpled it and threw it on the trash, erasing a word was just a matter of scratching over it.

It wasn’t only the software that was great, the hardware was beautiful and built like a tank. After 14 years (with 5 of heavy use) my Newton still works, with the dim backlight being the only clue of its age.

To believe a product is ahead of its time is to assume you can never be amazed when something new arrives.

By that definition, no one should be surprised with the this explosive new tablet age. However, seeing normal people using iPads (and upcoming devices like the PlayBook, Android and WebOS pads), I see the same fascination I experienced with my faithful Newton.

And I’m glad everyone is joining the club.


  1. The title of this post was going to be: IU: A True Story. But I couldn’t get it to display properly. Just wanted you to see how clever I’m not. 


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