iPhone’s Grandma Goes Under the Knife

September 2nd, 2009

If the iPhone 3GS had parents, its father would be the iPhone 3G, and its mother would be the 1st Gen iPhone. If it had a Grandma, that would unequivocally have to be the Apple Newton. We’ve done teardown videos on all of the iPhone models, and so it seemed only logical (and respectful) to give the Newton the same honor.

What’s the Newton you ask? The Newton was one of the first PDAs available circa 1998. It was revolutionary and ahead of its time. The system had handwriting recognition, applications, data storage, etc.. It was a Palm before the Palm was cool.

The main goal of the Newton was to revolutionize personal computing. At the time, the project was considered a failure in many ways as it did not live up to its goals. However, looking back, the Newton was the springboard for a lot of the current technologies we enjoy today. For example, the software that goes into iPods was developed by some of the Newton creators. Also, the handwriting recognition engine from the Newton crept into the Jaguar operating system in the form of Inkwell and is rumored to be the base of the handwriting recognition for the rumored Mac Tablet.

So here’s to the iPhone’s Grandma and her progeny:

26 Responses to “iPhone’s Grandma Goes Under the Knife”

  1. maczenbear says:

    I had a Newton MessagePad 130. It was a very cool device and I agree with PBMedic that it was definitely a precusor to some of our current devices. What Palm got right was the form factor–something you could put in your pocket–I think the size of the Newton was its ultimate Achilles Heal, although you might argue that it was Steve Jobs killing it when he came back to Apple. I clearly see the iPhone an iPod Touch as its descendants, and if Newton had survived I am certain the UI and UE of the iPhone/Touch would be its natural evolution. (Okay Apple, let’s do Handwriting on the iPhone!)

  2. roger says:

    So what was the point of this??

  3. David says:

    You guys are the absolute best and lifesavers…The true Apple spirit personified.
    Great parts, great prices, great information and totally helpful and accessible.
    “Mac, drinking upstream of the rest of the herd”.

  4. Bradley says:

    The point is to show the inner working of the origins of today’s iPods and iPhones.

  5. Sherry says:

    Someday I hope to have an iPhone. Sigh. Someday…

  6. Lance says:

    Interesting look back at something that obviously had a big influence, even though it ended up failing.

  7. Errol says:

    Those magnets out of iBooks sure are handy for grabbing screws huh?

  8. Julie says:

    My husband always wanted a Newton. Now he really wants an iPod (ATT should be in our area by the end of the year!) For now he is loving his iTouch.

  9. Bradley says:

    ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually, that magnet is from a Macbook.

  10. Nice job on the video. Iโ€™d love to see more of these covering the other Newton models. This particular guide is useful for the MessagePad 110, 120, and 130 devices, but there are significant differences in the OMP/MP100 and MP2x00 series. Likewise, the eMate should deserve a tear down as well.

    Frank Gruendel of PDA Soft in Germany has posted disassembly guide for most Newton products (including the Newton Keyboard and the 1×0 series charging station).


    Last of all, a couple of small comments about the actual tear down:

    1) Some other, less damaging tool should be used to separate the two halves of the case. Youโ€™re making quite the mess of the plastic along the seams there.

    2) The text overlay in the video has a typo โ€ฆ MessagePad is a single word (with an intercap โ€œPโ€).

  11. Godan says:

    poor grandma suffered some damage on the case ๐Ÿ™ (around 3:12)

  12. Ron says:

    Until a little over a month ago, I was a diehard WinMo fan/user. But then I was asked to move over to an iPhone to help with support/advising purposes for PDA use. Within a day or two I was sold on the iPhone. My only real complaint is no number row at the top of the keyboard (all my passwords contain numbers and mixed case characters). Yeah, I could jailbreak it for that … but I need to stay as true to how my support base users will have their devices

    anyone know a way to get a number row at the top for general use w/o jailbreaking?

  13. Janet says:

    This teardown is like ripping apart a flashback from the past! can’t wait until you guys do this to the iPhones.

  14. chris Dunaway says:

    I have an Ipod Touch and would love to tear it apart to see how it clicks,

    Twitter –Tnmountain

  15. BrokeHipster says:

    I had a Newton back in the day. It never got the character recognition right. I wonder why they abandoned the idea in the current iteration… Tho I guess the keyboard is more efficient.

  16. Okh says:

    Wow! Great post about iPhone (but not only) story. It’s always important our past to understand the future.

  17. FrancescaS says:

    Newton is really cool! I should buy one! ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Sophia says:

    The video is wonderful! You always make awesome videos!

  19. natalie says:

    I love my iphone…seeing the inner workings is an added bonus!

  20. Marilyn Howard says:

    My husband and I are also Newton owners. We still have several of the original first models and a couple of the Newton MessagePad 130’s that still work today! We agree that the Newtons were the precursor to devices like the Palm and now the iPhone. We both own old Palms as well. But, now we are happy to have iPods and iPhones. We LOVE our iPhones! We love the great videos you have that are very precise and keep us “alive”. I am still so grateful for the repair of our PowerBook G4 with the weirded-out screen issues. It works great now but, I keep wondering if I sent it back, could I, within a reasonable price, have memory/hard drive pumped up and (get ready to laugh) change the frame to accommodate a built-in camera so, I’d be good to go.

    Everyone got a good laugh on that one! A girl’s got to dream, I’ve always heard said.

  21. Jack says:

    Seeing how things work is always fun, especially things as mysterious as handheld gadgets.

  22. denologis says:

    Is it also means “if the iPhone 3GS had children, its son would be the iPhone 4G”? LOL.
    at all, you take very good job on the video!

  23. vbiker says:

    Wow, I haven’t seen a Newton in ages!

  24. […] PowerbookMedic takes apart a Newton MessagePad: If the iPhone 3GS had parents, its father would be the iPhone 3G, and its mother would be the 1st Gen iPhone. If it had a Grandma, that would unequivocally have to be the Apple Newton. Weโ€™ve done teardown videos on all of the iPhone models, and so it seemed only logical (and respectful) to give the Newton the same honor. […]

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