iPad zero dot oh

Now that the world is going iPad crazy, I’d like to give a moment of silence for Apple’s first long-forgotten crack at tablet computing: the Newton. It looks dated today but in its time this was a marvel of user-centric design.

This line of handheld tablet computers was sold from about 1993-1997. I owned the Newton 2100, which I bought — as I often do — about ten minutes before they announced they were discontinuing it.

The 2100 was incredibly light, durable, forgiving of both mistreatment and careless handwriting, practical, able to play well with your Mac or PC, able to tether to your cellphone or connect to a physical network (which at the time was a dialup phone line), structured in a way that suited business users, very long lasting on either rechargeable or AA batteries, and fabulous to use in full sunlight. In short, this was a real computer for people who actually needed to use one in the real world.

And now it’s 2010, and the new iPad appears to be none of those things. But it doesn’t matter because it’s sexy as hell and people will buy it first and convince themselves later they can use it for something. That, too, is good design.

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