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In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, some products leave an indelible mark that resonates long after they have faded from the market. One such device is the Apple MessagePad 120, a trailblazing personal digital assistant (PDA) that took the world by storm in 1994. Although discontinued in 1996, its legacy continues to be felt even today.
Back in 1994, when personal computing was still in its infancy, Apple stepped into uncharted territory with the introduction of the MessagePad 120. This handheld wonder was way ahead of its time, boasting cutting-edge technology and futuristic features that set it apart from its competitors. The device was part of the Apple Newton series and came in two memory configurations: 1 MB and 2 MB of RAM, with 4 MB of ROM, all powered by a 20 MHz ARM 610 RISC processor.
The MessagePad 120’s compact design, featuring a 320 x 240 pressure-sensitive monochrome display and powered by either 4 AA batteries or an external supply, made it a true marvel. Users could interact with the device using a stylus, providing an early glimpse into the world of touchscreens that we take for granted today.
One of the key highlights of the MessagePad 120 was its attempt at recognizing natural handwriting through the NewtonOS, a proprietary operating system developed by Apple. This innovative feature, combined with basic artificial intelligence, allowed the device to “tie” relevant information together and provided a glimpse of what would later evolve into more advanced AI technologies.
The MessagePad 120 made its debut on October 1, 1994, with a starting price of $599. However, despite its groundbreaking capabilities, the device faced challenges in the market and struggled to achieve significant sales figures. As a result, Apple decided to discontinue the MessagePad 120 on June 1, 1996.
Despite its relatively short-lived existence, the MessagePad 120 left a lasting impact on the tech world. Today, 29 years later, it remains a nostalgic symbol of Apple’s early ventures into personal computing and the PDA market. The device’s legacy continues through the advancements it inspired in handheld devices and mobile computing.
Apple’s commitment to innovation was evident in system updates like the Newton OS 2.0, which significantly improved the user experience. The introduction of a socketed ROM also allowed for easier upgrades, showcasing Apple’s dedication to providing the best technology to its users.
Additionally, the MessagePad 120 inspired several variants, each pushing the boundaries of handheld technology. Motorola’s Marco, with its wireless support and 5MB ROM, and Digital Ocean’s ruggedized Tarpon, were a testament to the device’s influence on the industry.
The Apple MessagePad 120 was more than just a PDA; it was a trailblazer that laid the groundwork for future handheld devices. Its innovative design, handwriting recognition, and AI capabilities were the stepping stones to the smartphones and PDAs we rely on today. While it may have left the market 27 years ago, its legacy endures, etched into the DNA of modern-day tech. The MessagePad 120 will forever be remembered as the device that shaped the future of personal digital assistants.
Newton MessagePad 120 Details
|Introduced||October 1, 1994 in Germany|
January 30, 1995 in the US.
|Discontinued||June 1, 1996|
|Order Number||H0126LL/A (1 MB)|
H0142LL/A (2 MB)
H0153LL/A (2 MB with Newton OS 2.0)
|Dimensions||8” H x 4” W x 1.2” D|
20.3 cm H x 10.16 cm W x 3 cm
MessagePad 120 Tech Specs
|Processor||ARM 610 RISC|
|Processor Speed||20 MHz|
|Number of Cores||1|
|Input Method||Telescoping Pen|
|Resolution||320 x 240|
|Expansion Slots||1 – PCMCIA-Slot II|
|Serial||1 – LocalTalk compatible|
1 – RS-232 compatible
|Infrared||1 – Low-power, half-duplex at up to 38.4 kbps|
|Battery||4 AA or NiCd re-chargeable battery or external power supply|
|Battery Life||Up to 12 hours|
Further Reading and References
- MessagePad – Wikipedia
- The Apple Newton MessagePad Was Well Ahead of Its Time – MacSales
- Today in Apple history: Newton MessagePad 120 becomes Apple’s first great mobile device – Cult of Mac
- Apple Newton MessagePad Service Source (PDF) – Apple Repair Manuals
Disclaimer: The data presented in this article is under continuous development and has been manually collected from various sources based on their availability. The author of this article may revise this dataset as additional research is conducted and reviewed. Please note that the information is provided “as is” and “as available” without express or implied warranties. The author cannot be held responsible for any omissions, inaccuracies, or errors in the published information. Any warranties relating to this information are hereby disclaimed.
Last updated: August 3, 2023