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Throwback Thursday Tech

Throwback Thursday Tech: Apple Newton MessagePad

Did you know in 1993, Apple released a device that some would call a precursor to the iPad? The Apple Newton MessagePad is a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) that functions as a personal information manager. It sold for $900 (or $1,638 adjusted for inflation in 2021) during its release with over 50,000 MessagePads sold within the first three months.

The MessagePad, like most PDAs, was a mobile device that synced data such as contacts, calendar, notes, and e-mails between the device and your computer. The device featured a monochrome touchscreen that works with an included stylus. It even came with handwriting recognition, which is new for its time. The MessagePad came preloaded with 10,000 of words into its library with the ability to learn new words. This device made it easy for business people to replace their paper planners with PDAs.

The MessagePad even had the ability to connect to external peripherals such as keyboards, printers, and modems. The modem allowed users to connect to the Internet to send and receive e-mails or faxes at a max speed of 9,600 bits per second. For comparison, 4G LTE on your smartphone has a max speed of 150 megabits per second or 150,000,000 bits per second. That’s makes 4G LTE over 15,000 times faster than the MessagePad’s modem!

Through the 90’s, other PDA rivals emerged such as the Palm Pilot, Handspring, and Compaq iPad. Now PDAs have been replaced with smartphones and tablets.