Today in Apple history: Apple shows off the Newton for the first time

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The Apple Newton. Failure, or precursor of the iPhone?
The world gets its first glimpse of the Newton MessagePad, a device ahead of its time.
Photo: Blake Patterson/Wikipedia CC

May 29: Today in Apple history May 29, 1992: Apple demonstrates the Newton MessagePad for the first time, showing how the upcoming PDA can be used to order a pizza and pull off other time-saving tricks.

Hailed by Apple CEO John Sculley as “nothing less than a revolution,” the Newton is Apple’s first major new product since the Macintosh eight years earlier. During the Newton demo at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago, Apple shows how people can customize a pizza by moving topping icons on a symbolic pie, then fax the order straight from the device.

Today in Apple history: Newton spins off as its own company

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The Newton MessagePad 2000 brought many upgrades to Apple's doomed PDA line.
Things were looking up for the Newton MessagePad. Until they weren't.
Photo: iFixit

May 22: Today in Apple history: Apple spins off Newton Inc. May 22, 1997: Apple spins off its Newton division. The new company’s first job? Selling the MessagePad 2000 PDA.

Newton Inc. also has a mandate to develop new technologies and market existing ones. “We have a solid business plan and a strong management team in place to optimize the value of Newton technology for corporate users and take Newton technology into a new era,” says Sandy Benett, former vice president Apple’s Newton Systems Group and chief operating officer of the new venture.

Instead, it turns out to be the beginning of the end.

Today in Apple history: Newton boss departs as device struggles

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The Newton MessagePad looks gigantic next to an iPhone.
The Newton MessagePad did not become the immediate hit Apple desired.
Photo: Blake Patterson/Wikipedia CC

April 19 April 19, 1994: The executive in charge of Apple’s revolutionary new product line, the Newton MessagePad, parts ways with Apple.

“We can’t say whether he fell or was pushed,” says an Apple spokesman. Reports suggest that the departing Gaston Bastiaens, general manager of Apple’s personal interactive electronics division, is leaving due to his failure to make the Newton a financial success.

Today in Apple history: Apple exec bets his wine cellar on Newton

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The Newton MessagePad looks gigantic next to an iPhone.
A daring bet means a very public deadline for the Newton MessagePad.
Photo: Blake Patterson/Wikipedia CC

March 25: Today in Apple history: Apple executive Gaston Bastiaens bets his wine cellar on Newton March 25, 1993: Apple executive Gaston Bastiaens bets a journalist that the eagerly anticipated Newton MessagePad will ship before summer ends. The prize? Bastiaens’ well-stocked personal wine cellar, worth thousands of dollars.

The bet takes place at the CeBit trade show in Hanover, Germany. Bastiaens’ outburst comes in response to a reporter’s needling. The gamble not only gives the Newton a release timetable, but also a price: under $1,000.

Today in Apple history: Apple reconsiders the Newton?

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The Newton MessagePad 2100 was the last hurrah for Apple's Newton line.
In retrospect, Apple's Newton MessagePad survey seems like stealth iPhone research.
Photo: Moparx

March 10: Today in Apple history: Apple reconsiders the Newton MessagePad? March 10, 2004: Apple sends out a survey to select Apple customers, claiming that it is considering relaunching the Newton MessagePad.

In hindsight, it seems pretty clear that this apparent “interest” in launching another personal data assistant was a way of doing some undercover market research for the still-in-development iPhone.

Today in Apple history: Apple bids farewell to the Newton

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The Newton MessagePad 2100 was the last hurrah for Apple's Newton line.
The MessagePad was a product ahead of its time.
Photo: Moparx

February 27: Today in Apple history: Apple discontinues Newton MessagePad February 27, 1998: Apple discontinues work on the Newton MessagePad product line, the series of personal digital assistants the company launched five years earlier.

“This decision is consistent with our strategy to focus all our software development resources on extending the Macintosh operating system,” Steve Jobs says at the time. “To realize our ambitious plans we must focus all of our efforts in one direction.”

Today in Apple history: Newton MessagePad 120 is Apple’s first great mobile device

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The MessagePad 120 perfects Apple's PDA line.
Do you remember the Newton MessagePad 120?
Photo: Fzurell/Flickr CC

January 30: Today in Apple history: MessagePad 120 is Apple's first great mobile device January 30, 1995: Apple Computer launches the Newton MessagePad 120, the first truly great device in an unfairly maligned product line.

Coming 18 months after the original Newton MessagePad, the upgraded PDA packs more power — and truly shines once Newton OS 2.0 rolls out.

Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs flip-flops on the Newton

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The Newton MessagePad 2000 brought many upgrades to Apple's doomed PDA line.
The Newton MessagePad went from hero to zero overnight.
Photo: iFixit

September 4: Today in Apple history: Steve Jobs flip-flops on the Apple Newton PDA September 4, 1997: The writing is on the wall for Apple’s Newton product line as Steve Jobs tells executives at the newly spun-off company not to bother moving into their new offices.

It’s quite the turnaround for the Newton division. Only months earlier, it was being portrayed as large enough to become its own company.