Being an election year, it’s good to remember that today is important due to the fact that the 22nd Ammendment was ratified on this day in 1951, limiting the President of the United States to two terms. Regardless of who you’re for or against, it was a significant development in our country’s political system to require a changing of the guard every eight years and we should all be ecstatic that we have this opportunity.
However, for a small number of us, today is also a day of mourning. For today, way back in 1998—Yes, that’s right, ten whole years ago—Apple discontinued the Newton.
The Newton was one of the first projects that Steve Jobs axed upon his return to Apple and caused quite the uproar among the Newton faithful. Some remain bitter to this day (after all, we didn’t get a chance to vote), some—me, for example—are merely disappointed that the Newton’s growth was forever stunted, but we seem to still be chugging along with our Newtons in hand1.
There’s still an active group of Newton users congregating on the NewtonTalk mailing list every day and many more walking the streets. Our Newtons still work and do what we need, just like they did on this day in 1998, so what’s the rush.
I personally try to follow the, “Reduce, reuse, recycle,” mantra and so try to reuse as much older hardware as I reasonably can. The Newton happens to fit in brilliantly with that plan. You can read my State of the Newton post, 10 Years Ago Today, over on my personal site if you’re interested in all that the Newton still has going for it.
However, Steve Jobs had a vision for Apple’s future and, like it or not, it didn’t include our beloved Newton: focus on the Mac platform and the Mac OS.
It all started with the iMac and then Mac OS X. Along the way Apple introduced the iPod as well. And now, slowly but surely, we’re seeing concepts from the Newton make their way back into Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch. It may not be the Newton we remember and [some of us] continue to use, but in the end it got us a better Apple, better Macs, a much better Mac OS, and happier customers because Apple’s great focus. Focus which results in beautiful products that are powerful and easy to use.
For the few of us that still use Newtons, the iPhone and iPod touch don’t quite compare, but we like where Apple is headed with them. And there are a few features that we wish Newtons could have gotten, but who knows what they would have morphed into over the last 10 years had their development continued.
With that I’d like to ask you to take a moment of silence in remembrance of the Newton before you press play on your iPod touch or iPhone. Just once. Then revel in the joy that is OS X, touch screen, and gesture-driven interface of Apple’s latest handheld products, for it truly kicks ass (and the guard has changed).
1 Oh yes, you can walk into my office any day and see my MessagePad 2100 sitting on my desk next to my MacBook Pro (unless it’s attending a meeting with me somewhere).