Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing the filmmaker behind a crowdfunded documentary project covering the history of and enduring community still dedicated to the Apple Newton platform. Noah Leon’s project is called Love Notes to Newton, and it is currently being funded through a campaign on Indiegogo, which you can find here.
Some of you may scoff and ask, “What relevance does a platform that Steve Jobs killed off 20 years ago have today?” It is easy to think that way, because personal computing is still relatively new in the grand scheme of things, and we often are so focused on what’s next that we forget about or dismiss what got us here. However, history is inescapable, as both the successes and failures of the past shape the present and beyond. As the first true handheld computing platfom, the Apple Newton has had a sizeable impact on both Apple, and the technology industry at large. Despite the fact that it was a commercial failure, it is still worth remembering the trail that it blazed and the technologies that it helped to push forward.
One of the aspects of this project that I am very interested in is the history and behind the scenes that it can bring to light. For many Apple fans today, the company’s history begins in either 1997 or 2007, but there is SO MUCH MORE that occurred before then, both successes and failures, that can’t just be dismissed. And how often do we get even a brief glimpse behind that curtain of secrecy that has always enveloped Apple? This project should provide some very interesting details on both the development of the Newton and the state of Apple at a time when its demise seemed almost a foregone conclusion.
However, there is another focus of this documentary project that is even more important. Most contemporary Apple fans probably don’t realize that there is STILL a sizable community of Apple Newton collectors and users that have kept devices working and pushing the platform forward over the last 20 years. When we talk about how dedicated and loyal Apple fans are, we are remiss to ignore a group who’s passion and dedication perfectly exemplify that. These people deserve to have their story told, as well. If you don’t believe me, then join the NewtonTalk mailing list and go follow @NetwonTalk, @indigi_newton, and @splorp to start, and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.
My own interest in the Newton and its community was re-kindled a few weeks ago when I wrote about the Museum of Failure and the original Apple Newton’s inclusion there. The whole concept of that museum as a place not to simply mock failure, but to accept and learn from it, made the Newton a perfect fit in my book. Apple and other companies at the time obviously did learn from the good and bad of the Newton, and those lessons are still relevant today.
I wrote that article purely out of my own interest, not thinking that too many readers would really take much notice. However, several former Newton owners and members of this ongoing community reached out and commented afterwards. It reminded me of how helpful several had been when I briefly owned a MessagePad 2100 and needed help getting it running a few years ago. That’s one of the best things about the Newton community. It is INCREDIBLY welcoming and helpful to those who need help with devices, or just have an appreciation for them. As you can see from the pictures above, this process has prompted me to shake the dust off my old eMate 300 and even pick up a working MessagePad 130 and keyboard off eBay.
It was just after my article touching on the Newton that I came across Mr Leon and his project on Indigogo through an article on 9to5 Mac. It has been a real pleasure talking with him about the Newton, the Newton user community and this film. After all of our discussions before, during, and after this interview, I can tell you that he is very sincere in both his long-time interest in the Newton platform and community, as well as his desire to make an interesting film about both.
This is definitely a project worth supporting, and I will leave you with this- If you call yourself an Apple fan, you should be willing to part with the price of a typical dinner out to support a film that will shed some light on one of its more ambitious projects, that came at a pivotal time right before Steve Jobs lead the company’s big turnaround. I added my name to the list of supporters on Indigogo today. I hope many of you will, as well. Let’s help get this film fully funded.
You can find the Indigogo campaign right here. Follow Noah Leon on Twitter @moosefuel and on Instagram at moosefuel, while you’re at it. And if you STILL need convincing, check out this short promotional clip on the project.
I want to thank Noah Leon for taking the time to sit down me for this interview. Like me, he has a “day job” and a family, so finding extra time to sync up with someone else outside of that is always a challenge. I appreciate him making that effort. This process has really been a lot of fun, and I very much look forward to seeing Love Notes to Newton in a little less than a year!