Cracking Open the Apple Newton
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The Apple Newton H1000 (OMP)
The Newton was the first successful PDA. Introduced in 1993, it paved the way for such things as the Palm PDA, Pocket PC, and even devices like the iPhone. Ridiculed for poor performance, it didn’t last long in the marketplace, but its influence lingers on today. n
nWe got a hold of one and discovered what’s inside. Our unit is an Apple Newton H1000, also known as an OMP (Original Message Pad). This was the first Newton on the market. It debuted in 1993.
Our Newton is the H1000, which is also known as the Newton MessagePad. This is the original unit made in 1993. As you can see, it was made in Japan.
The Control Panel
The Newton is basically one large tablet. You can write anywhere except at the bottom, displayed here. These are touch buttons which launch applications.
The stylus stores in the side of the case. Unlike modern styluses which are usually little pointers, this one is full size, equivalent to a ball point pen.
Here’s the top of the unit. The black box on the left is the IR window. Next to it is the card slot for a PCMCIA memory card.
The button in the middle is the On/Off switch. It’s springloaded. At the far left is the button to pop the PCMCIA card out with. It’s mechanical in nature and takes some pressure to release.
Power and synch
These two connectors, below the stylus holder are hidden beneath a rubber gromit. The one on the left is for an AC/Adapter. The one on the right allows you to synch your Newton with your Mac. Your OLD Mac.
You can expand the Newton memory using a PCMCIA card. This card contains a whopping 2MB of memory. Lots by 1993 standards.
Here’s the unit powered up. You can see the greenish reflective LCD screen common on some low powered devices in the 80’s and 90’s. No backlighting here. The screen is useless unless it’s well lit.
You have many choices to configure your Newton, including training it to learn your handwriting. It is supposed to recognize regular writing, not special kinds like Grafitti on the later Palms.
Party like it's 1994
By default the Newton thinks that it’s January 4, 1994.
The Newton is Y2K compliant. It understands 2008 as being a valid date. There’s no direct date input though. You must scroll through 14 years of dates.
On screen keyboard
You can write freehand and the Newton will do OCR or you can bring up an onscreen keyboard like this.
You can specify how the Newton recognizes your handwriting.
One of the Newton’s downfalls that it was ridiculed for was its poor handwriting recognition. It rendered the word TechRepublic as feedback!
Newton vs iPod Touch
Here you can see the size of the Newton relative to an iPod Touch.
As you can see the Touch is much smaller, but rotated into a landscape mode, the screen width is identical to the width of the Newton.
The Battery Compartment is on the bottom of the unit.
AAA battery pack
The Newton runs on 4 AAA batteries which sit inside of a removable battery pack.
There’s a lithium battery for backup purposes to keep data in the Newton in case the 4 AAAs die.
nTo the left there’s a red switch you set to remove the backup battery and the 4 AAA battery pack.
Model and Serial Number
Inside the battery compartment is the model and serial number for the Newton.
Backup Battery removed
Slide the red switch to Remove Backup and it unlocks the lithium battery.
Back cover screws
There are two screws accessible from the outside, and 5 inside of the unit. Remove these first.
Once the 5 screws are removed, the back of the case snaps off, with a little prying.
Main system board
With the back off, you can see the clean system board. It’s a very clean design, mostly all ICs.
This is the main RAM for the Newton. The H1000 comes with 640K of RAM.
Apple LSI chip
This chip handles most of the bus activity on the Newton. It provides the interface for RAM, DMA, Real time clock, PCMCIA card, audio, and video.
The Newton uses a 20Mhz ARM610 CPU. It was one of the first mobile processors.
These two identical chips (to the lower left and bottom of the CPU) are the system ROMS for the Newton. It comes with 4MB onboard ROM storing the Newton programs such as Calendar, Calculator, and so on. The chip in the upper left hand corner is another RAM chip used for parity checking on the others.
Upside down serial controller
This inverted chip is a Zilog Z85C3008VSC CMOS serial controller. It’s the chip that controls the serial port on the Newton and allows you to connect your Newton to a PC. Unlike most serial controllers which are RS232, this is an RS422 standard chip.n
nThe LT902SC chip to the left is a driver/receiver chip for the RS422 chip. The AD7880AR chip to the right is an Analog to Digital converter chip.
This is the IR port for the Newton. You can use it to beam information to another Newton or IR capable device.
Here’s the wires that run to the speaker. They’re soldered in place, so you must be careful with them.
System board screws
There are lots of little screws to remove to take the system board off.
There’s a screw hidden deep in the machine you have to remove to get the system board off.
Here’s the touchscreen for the unit with the cover off.
Here’s the assembly date for the unit.
October 29, 1993.
Removing the cover
There are two large screws which connect the speaker to the front cover. Remove them and cover disconnects.
Here you can see the shielding between the system board and the LCD.
The LCD connects to the system board with a ribbon connector.
Here’s where the PCMCIA expansion cards sit when you put them in the machine.
Here’s the ribbon cable disconnected from the system board.
Here’s a closeup of the ribbon connector. you can see the trace wires in the ribbon and the exposed card edges.
Here’s where the ribbon plugs in.
nBeneath it, you can see the blue Reset button which is inside of the battery compartment.
The Newton Message Pad H1000 (OMP) completely cracked open.