[NTLK] Restarting Newton development?!

Steven Frank stevenf at panic.com
Mon Aug 6 14:22:27 EDT 2018

> On Aug 4, 2018, at 4:38 AM, Simon Bell <simonbell at me.com> wrote:
> As for help: I think before diving in to the code we should talk some more about what we want exactly, where to focus our efforts so we can set some realistic goals and milestones. At the moment I have no goals with the project, it’s just an interesting challenge.

Well, we've talked before about one or more different directions "restarting Newton development" could go.  None are particularly easy, and they all have different pros and cons.

	1. Develop a toolkit that runs on modern systems that can build and deploy to original Newton hardware or Einstein.  (NTX?)

	2. Hoist the NewtonOS 2.x runtime onto a new foundation layer that runs on modern systems.  Compatible with existing Newton software and development tools.  Einstein does this by partial emulation, so it's very true to the original device, but at a performance penalty.  Newton Framework is going the route of native recompilation (WINE-like), which would have great performance but involves a lot more reverse-engineering!  

	3. Use the open source NewtonScript compiler and runtime that we have.  Write our own clean-room implementation of the object store, views, and underlying foundation layer with an eye to the original NewtonOS specification / API, but without concern about necessarily being able to run existing Newton packages (or even the NewtonScript portions from the ROM) as-is.  Forward looking, but more of a clean slate.  May be possible to bring old Newton software forward if source exists, with some work.

	4. Create an entirely new thing... a new work/application environment, inspired by Newton (and Self, etc) concepts (possibly even using NewtonScript as a development language), but with a new visual language (color?? haha) and API with present-day internet in mind.  Completely blue-sky.  One way to think about it might be: if you had a device with existing smartphone / tablet hardware, but got to write your own OS, what would you make?  (The "OS" might in fact just be an app running on iOS or Android, but it helps frame the question.)

Probably the biggest problem is that you don't get handwriting recognition out of the box with many of these ideas.  That's pretty core to the whole Newton experience.  :)  But as you go down the list to #4, the idea becomes more abstracted from "Newton, the Apple product" to "Newton, the overall concept and good bits", where maybe HWR is not strictly necessary.  But it's probably a less compelling outcome for most people on this list.

It seems like the big questions to be answered are:

	- What hardware would you want to run this thing on, whatever it is, and what are the capabilities of that hardwre?

	- How important is backward compatibility with existing Newton software?

	- Does it have to be exactly a Newton, or can it be Newton-like?

	- Legal issues if any original Apple code is preserved

I don't really have a suggestion -- just throwing out ideas for discussion!


More information about the NewtonTalk mailing list