[NTLK] Followup on mystery Newton

NewtonTalk newtontalk at pda-soft.de
Sun Dec 17 22:10:32 EST 2017

Well, I did some more unpaid detective work on our Mystery Newton:


For a start, I finally managed to recall who I bought it from. I bought it
along with three huge boxes of other Newton 1x0 stuff from Paul Zenk. That
was 17 years ago. Boy, must I be old...

Paul bought it from a guy who, just like Paul himself, was living in Kansas
City at that time.

Kansas City is about 25 kilometers north of Lenexa, which is where Digital
Ocean was founded in May 1992 by Jeffery Alholm. David Watson a.k.a. Dr.
Newton was a staff member.

So it can be assumed that the Newton we are talking about came from Digital
Ocean. Further proof is the following patent I dug out:


This patent describes exactly what is in our Mystery Newton, and the Apple
Newton is even mentioned in it.

It's interesting that this patent was filed in November 1995. Their Tarpon
model was released in January 1995:


In this article they say that Digital Ocean's modifications include a
backlit screen. So it can be assumed that the Tarpon is based on a
MessagePad 120. They probably developed the backlight board in 1994,
tinkered with it and finally put it into the Tarpon. A couple of months
later they must have thought it might be a good idea to file a patent.

Their next model, the Seahorse, was released in 1996 and is to the best of
my knowledge based on a Newton 130, which has built-in backlight.

So our Mystery Newton must have seen the light of the day before or during
the time they were developing the Tarpon. I doubt that they would have
bothered with putting a backlight into something based on a 120 while
developing the Seahorse that's based on a 130.

Since the speaker is disconnected and replaced by two wires that end in the
battery compartment, I am almost sure this device came with a headphone. So
I am still inclined to think it might have been used as a museum guide.

Obviously we now have some new questions that the Sherlock Holmes in you
might assist me in getting answered:

1) What MP120-based device with a headphone could Digital Ocean have been
working on prior to or while they were developing the Tarpon?

2) Are you aware of museums other than the Smithsonian that used a Newton as
a guide? The Smithsonian used a device called Eye-Q, of which I haven't yet
managed to find a picture, but it is said to be based on a 130, so it is
most likely not what we are looking for.

3) I am aware of four people who have worked for Digital Ocean:

   a) Jeffery Alholm, the founder
   b) Dave Watson a.k.a. Dr. Newton, who I haven't been able to reach for
more than a decade
   c) Tim Godfrey and David C. Hughes, Jr., who filed the patent

Are you aware of any other staff members? How can they be reached?
Preferably without forcing me to register at companies like Linkedln first?

4) I dimly remember having exchanged some E-Mails with one Dan Watson, who
said he was Dr. Newton's brother. This was in summer 2000 I think. About a
year later I tried to get in touch with him because I was trying to locate
his brother, but Dan's mail address no longer worked. I have lost those
mails and haven't a clue what exactly we discussed back then. Back at the
time he seemed to work at a company that had some connection to plywood,
because his E-Mail-Address ended in robertweedplywood.com. Does anybody know
this guy or feel tempted to find him?

Oops... Seems that I'll have start for work three hours from now. Might be a
good idea to get some sleep :-)

Cheers, and happy hunting. Whoever solves this riddle will get a 50%
discount if I can fix our sleeping beauty and decide to part with it, which
will probably happen before long.


-- Newton software and hardware at http://www.pda-soft.de

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