The Newton MessagePad 130 was the fifth and final 100-series device in the MessagePad lineup. It featured a 20 MHz ARM 610 processor, 8 MB of ROM, and 2.5 MB of RAM. It had infrared-beaming capabilities for wireless file sharing. Its display was a 320×240 pressure-sensitive, backlit monochrome display that used an included telescoping stylus that was stored in the Newton’s case.
The Newton was among the world’s first Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), a term that was created to describe the Newton. The MessagePad 130 was similar to the MessagePad 120, but added a backlit textured display, more RAM, and it ran the Newton 2.0 operating system. The texture on the screen was meant to simulate paper, however, this well-used example reveals that the texture wore off with use.
The MessagePad 130 could be powered by 4 AA batteries or an AC adapter. The batteries were easily accessed on the lower-back side of the device.
Like other Newton models, the case color was dark greenish-gray. It weighed just under 1 pound (0.45 kg) and measured 8 inches high x 4 inches wide x 1.18 inches deep. This model used a built-in hinged cover to protect the screen when not in use. The stylus used a spring-loaded telescoping design and slid into the case in the upper-right corner.
The Apple Newton MessagePad 100 was the same as the original Newton, but shipped with a newer version of the Newton operating system (Newton OS 1.2). All available Newton models included the MessagePad (Original MessagePad, OMP), followed by the MessagePad 100, 110, 120, 130, 2000, and 2100. In addition, the eMate 300 also ran the Newton OS.
The Newton MessagePad was the first device referred to as a “Personal Digital Assistant” (PDA). The MessagePad 100 was a handheld device with a 336×240 monochrome display that was touch-sensitive. Users could interact with the display with a stylus that came with the Newton stored in a compartment on the right side. The device used a 20 MHz ARM (Acorn RISC Machine) 610 processor and had a total of 604k of storage, although only 150k was usable. This Newton weighed just under 1 pound at 0.9 pounds.
The Newton MessagePad 100 could be plugged in to a Macintosh or Windows computer using a serial port connection, or data could be “beamed” to and from the device through infrared. It also had a PCMCIA card slot (later called a PC Card) accessed from the top to allow other programs to be run or the memory to be expanded.
The Newton was also among the first devices commercially available to use handwriting recognition as part of the operating system. However, this feature did not work well when first released, leading media and popular culture to ridicule and parody the feature. The Newton’s handwriting capabilities were featured on an episode of The Simpsons (“Lisa on Ice”) and in a week-long story of the Doonesbury comic strip by Garry Trudeau.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1998, the Newton was one of the projects that was cancelled.
I used this Newton MessagePad 100 for 3 years while serving as a band director. This device allowed me to keep all my notes and contacts and I used it along with my Macintosh PowerBook 160. For the record, I did not experience the handwriting recognition issues with this device that were popular to reference at the time. In fact, I believe the Newton OS 1.2 handwriting recognition from around 1995 has the same, or better, accuracy than the “Scribble” text input on the Apple Watch in 2020.