Not many people will remember the exceptionally odd Newton eMate 300 which Apple introduced exactly twenty years ago today, incredibly. It was one of the last Hail Marys from Apple’s doomed Newton OS line of portable digital assistants—basically the iPad to the original Newton’s iPhone—but it was aimed at the education market.
The eMate 300 sported a 25 MHz ARM chip, 1MB of RAM and 2MB of flash memory which, I’m guessing, couldn’t even run iOS’s home screen today, much less any apps. I never owned one but I remember liking the idea of it very much: a rugged, highly portable computing device that required none of the overhead of a file system, suitable for writing and capturing ideas anywhere.
Basically this weirdly shaped, pre-Bondi blue sorta-laptop postulated a kind of mobile computing that left behind all of the encumbrances of the desktop. The eMate tanked so I eventually gave up on ever owning one, but taking a step back I realize that my 9.7-inch iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard is a fully realized version of the eMate’s early promise, though far more powerful and versatile. These ideas have a way of succeeding in the long run, even if the products that first embody them don’t.
For those interested in this footnote in tech history, Stephen Hackett has some fun links over at 512pixels.net, including this entertaining remembrance from my Adobe colleague Andy Welfle who, believe it or not, is an honest-to-goodness Millenial who actually used one of these things in its heyday.+