Apple’s Newton at 20


…In 1992, nobody had a PDA. That’s Personal Digital Assistant, in case you’ve forgotten, and even though nobody had one, lots of people were talking about them. Apple CEO John Sculley had coined the term in the keynote speech he made at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 7. He announced that Apple would release PDAs–pocket-sized information devices, easier to use than a PC and selling for under $1000–in 1993.

Twenty years ago this week, on May 29, 1992, Sculley spoke again at another CES, in Chicago. This time, he didn’t just talk about PDAs. He brought one with him. It was a Newton, a prototype of the device which Apple planned to start selling in early 1993. Actually, Apple had multiple Newtons on hand that, which was good: The first one it unveiled on stage had dead batteries and didn’t work. Using a second unit, Steve Capps, one of Newton’s creators, showed how you could use it to order a pizza by moving topping icons onto a pie and then sending out a fax. In 1992, that was show-stopping stuff.

Newton’s were the must-have geek toy of the Nineties. It may not seem like it now but they were amazing for their time.