Connecting your Newton to OS X

Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007.

One of the challenges of owning and using a Newton in the modern computing world is its lack of support for Apple’s OS X.

There’s no easy direct-connect option that offers the stability and goof-proof usability of Newton Connection Kit or Utilities, but there are options (as this Google Answers commentary points out).

The idea is that, using apps like NewTen, Escale or NewtSync, you can sync your iCal and Address Book entries to Newton’s own Calendar and Names databases. It’s a beautiful idea, and a handy route for us Newton die-hards who want a more modern interface than OS 7+ offers. Who needs a Blackberry or Palm when you’ve got Apple’s original PDA?

I will say that I’ve tried a few these solutions, and none have worked for me. I think that it’s a combination of (a) my USB-to-serial adapter isn’t supported by my iBook G4 and (b) these applications require Newton OS 2.0 to run properly. Stuck at OS 1.3, there’s not much I can do but use Newton Connection Kit on my G3 Bondi iMac.

But some Newton users have used both of these programs with varied success rates. There has been plenty of dicussion in the Newtontalk mailing list about both applications, and some support is out there for Newton users having issues.

So let’s dig into these one by one, and see what each have to offer.

Newton Connection - NCX

Newton Connection

Also called NCX, Newton Connection is a pretty stable utility to:

backup your Newton data to your Mac desktop, import and export Dates, Names, Notes and NewtonWorks, install packages and use your Mac desktop keyboard to enter text on your Newton device. In fact, most of the functions provided by the Newton Connection Utilities (NCU), but without the need for the Classic environment.

All that according to its site. Connect your Newton via serial (or usb-to-serial), wireless, or ethernet. NCX requires OS X 10.4 Tiger to run, but once it’s up, it allows the most accurate depiction of the Newton Connection Utilities environment around. It’s so complex, it comes with a 40-page how-to manual.

NewtSync, or nSync

NEWTSYNC

One of the best-intentioned applications out there, NewtSync (also called, unfortunately, “nSync”) aims to sync your Newton with native OS X apps like iCal and Address Book.

Says the download site:

Think of nSync as the converse of iSync. Rather than sync just a bit of information to a whole bunch of devices, it syncs a whole bunch of information to one device, a Newton. nSync is a plugin based app that allows us to move information between our Newtons and our OS X based Macs.

nSync automatically comes with support for Address Book and iCal, and it features plug-in support for updated versions of iLife software, to-do lists, and more.

The app connects with your Newton by either modem, Bluetooth, or over TCP/IP, with options to configure each.

nSync hasn’t been supported by its original developer since 2004, but others have picked up the source code and continued to work with it. NewtSync is now on version 0.3.3, but there’s talk of NewTen’s developer, Steven Frank, is working on it.

NewTen

NEWTEN

NewTen (get it?) is based on the UnixNPI open source project, but its focus is very narrow – namely, installing packages on MessagePads in OS X. That’s it. No syncing, no backup, just packages. But, from what I’ve read, people are fine with its ability to do that one simple task. The only issue is it only supports serial connection, meaning you may have to bootstrap your modern day Mac, or “any USB serial adapter that installs a driver into Mac OS X’s ‘/dev’ directory, such as the KeySpan TwinSerial USA-28X.” Download version 1.5.1 here, or the older (and supposedly more stable) version 1.2 here.

Connect with Escale

ESCALE

Another application based on C++/ObjC from the Desktop Connection Library over at Kallisys, Escale claims to do a bit more than NewTen by offering syncing support and package installation, but its competitive advantage rests in its ability to use your Mac keyboard as a Newton keyboard. Pretty handy. Connect to Escale with a serial port, AppleTalk, and TCP/IP with Rendezvous. Escale is on version 1.0.1 right now.

The Desktop Connection Library hosts other handy software solutions for your Newton, like XML converters.

Make your life a whole lot easier by buying the right USB-to-serial adapter (some swear by Keyspan’s model), or hooking up via Ethernet or Bluetooth with the right adapters. Anyway you do it, it’s going to be a project.

If/when I get my hands on a 2×00 MessagePad, I’ll be sure to try some of this out. In the meantime, however, I’ll be syncing my Newton with my (now) trusty iMac and Newton Connection Kit.

Let me know if you’ve found a better way.

17 comments.

  1. [...] MessagePad to modern OS X Macs, released a 2.1 update that allows for screenshots.Newton Poetry covered apps like NCX, and it’s nice to know Newton developers are still working hard on viable connection [...]

  2. These apps seem to all be abandoned, is there anything up to date that is still being looked after?

  3. Yes, actually – NCX just released an update to their software, so that’s at least one. From what I’ve heard from other people, it seems to get the job done.

  4. Will any of these work on 10.5.3?

  5. I have no idea. I’m still a Tiger user myself. Love to hear from someone who has tried, however.

  6. [...] compatible with OS X. Syncing your MessagePad with Tiger or Leopard can be a project. But with the pNewton, syncing is as easy as reading an index card and typing the entry into [...]

  7. [...] Newton MP130 connects to OS X Hello!I did a search about Newton and I ended up on your great article. I have just bought an old Newton 130 (above) and I was wondering how you have it sync/connect with [...]

  8. [...] syncing with modern Macs. There are ways to sync your Newton with OS X, but it’s kind of a project. With the iPod Touch, you just plug it in and – BAM! – [...]

  9. [...] to: connect your Newton to OS X with NCX Of all the Newton connection utilities designed to sync your MessagePad or eMate with OS X, I looked forward to trying out the Newton [...]

  10. These comments are very helpful. I have an ’08 generation iMac (Leopard) and just got a Newton MP 2k. Are we saying that I can connect my Newton via Bluetooth with NCX or the other mentioned apps and be able to sync this? I wanted to be sure that was a possibility before I dropped money on a Bluetooth card.

    I had an MP130 in 1997 that went missing so I’m excited to know that some have had some luck with sync-ing Newtons with OSX. Any links on how-to’s for Bluetooth/Newton sync-ing would be greatly appreciated!

    Andrew

  11. @Andrew – I know it’s possible, because I’ve read about people doing it. Check the Newtontalk archives. I’ll betcha someone there has got it figured out. I use the serial-to-USB adapter method.

  12. Thanks Dave. I took your advice and perused the archives and read up on the manual for NCX and some of the ReadMe’s for the other apps. It’s turning out to be a lot easier than I expected. Thanks again.

  13. Hey, you’re welcome Andrew. Sorry I couldn’t be more help, but let me know how it works out!

  14. [...] I wrote a few months ago, NewTen is a simple app with a simple objective: install packages onto your Newton using Mac OS X. [...]

  15. I have an emate 300 and use it for a daily diary , how can i connect it to my imac to transfer the data ? , i have purchased the serial to usb connection installed the driver all with no joy ?????

  16. Do a search on the site – I cover it in a lot more detail elsewhere. Start here: http://newtonpoetry.com/2007/11/02/nov-1-2007-newton-syncs-to-imac/

  17. Hi! Love the site! Very informational. Just pulled my 2100 out after years in mothballs and am having much trouble connecting to 10.5.8 on iBook G4. Discovered that my Entegra USB/serial won’t work on OSX. Quick question, you mention a “40-page how-to manual” for Newton Connection in your blog. Where did you find that at? There are only 2 page pdfs in the download file for NCX. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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