Newton MessagePad


Steve's Software

Documentary: "Love Letter to Newton"

  • Moosefuel Media is producing a 1.5 hour documentary about the Newton to be released in 2018 -- watch the preview. After a preliminary discussion with Noah about what made the Newton software and community so great (maybe I'll be included in the documentary), I was inspired to dust off my MessagePad 2000 to see if it could still connect to the internet and display web pages.

Connecting to the Web

  • Although a lot of information and software about the Newton has disappeared, there was just enough available -- along with some trial and error -- to access the web using Newt's Cape on my MP2K.
  • NCX: install packages, screenshots, backup/restore -- supported & runs on latest macOS 10.13 (High Sierra); directions #1; #2
  • (Original development/sync tools, e.g., NTK, Newton Backup/Connection, Newton Press work only in Mac OS 9?)
  • KeySpan serial adapter: USB to Mac, serial cable to MP2K interconnect dongle -- works with current driver, but occasional Mac crashes.
  • Driver packages and directions for Newton Internet Enabler(NIE) and older, selected Ethernet and wireless cards still exist: #1; #2
  • 3COM Etherlink III (3C589D-TP) PCMCIA card was recognized, and initiated an NIE connection, but errors persisted.
  • Switched to Lucent Orinoco Silver Wi-Fi (PC24E-H-FC; 11Mb/sec) PCMCIA card.
  • Installed the famous Hiroshi WaveLan driver; directions: see #1&#2 above; plus: #1; #2; #3
  • Note: older wireless cards use 802.11b, 2.4Ghz and 64-bit WEP; router has to be backward compatible for these slower, less secure protocols.
  • Success!

Accessing Sites and Pages

  • Newton browsers were designed around original HTML standard & technologies; however, modern, large, complex web pages might exhaust working memory; CSS formatting, JavaScript interactivity, .png images, videos, and secure https: connections are not supported.
  • Still, it's possible with some persistence and a few extra tricks, to extract and display useful content for some sites, hopefully for awhile longer -- quite an impressive feat for a 20+ year-old device and software.
  1. "Gracefully Degraded Content": full (often desktop) pages via regular site URL & browser settings; what can't be processed is usually ignored. Grant Hutchinson (and others) discuss and show Newton screenshots from the 2010-2012 era. Since then, many more sites support https: and provide richer layouts and interfaces -- normally very good things, but unfortunately, much more challenging for the Newton.
  2. It should be possible to access "mobile-friendly" pages (via Adaptive or Responsive Web Design),
    • either manually by special mobile URLs ("m." or "mobile." prefix or ".mobi" domain)
    • or automatically by "spoofing the User-Agent" (which Newt's Cape supports) -- server might provide pages to better match a device's capabilities.

    In practice, however, since most modern devices can handle large complex pages, many sites redirect to https: or desktop versions.
    If anyone would like to explore this option further, contact Steve for more details.

  3. A Mobile HTML Transcoder uses a Proxy server to generate a simpler (maybe smaller, more mobile-friendly) page, e.g.,
    • Loband (form)
    • Newt's Cape:
    • Google Web Light (info)
    • Newt's Cape:

Gracefully Degraded Content