Mon 8/25 Newton OS Keyboard

Apple has a long history of on-screen keyboards.1 But few have played as important a role as the multitouch keyboard in iOS. In fact, I would go so far as to say the multitouch keyboard is iOS’ most important feature. For without a reliable input mechanism, iOS would be little more than a media-centric mobile operating system, and not the leader of the app revolution it is today.

In contrast, the on-screen keyboard that came with every Newton MessagePad was never as important as the on-screen keyboard in iOS. Apple said it themselves in their Newton UI Keyboard Guild. The Newton on-screen keyboard always played second fiddle to the pen.

In the Newton OS 2.1 interface, users should be able to operate all controls and input all data solely with a pen. A user may attach a keyboard to facilitate entering text, and may use keyboard commands to operate some controls. Keyboard commands are always alternatives to operating controls by tapping with a pen; they should never be the only method of giving a command.

Still that’s not to say the Newton OS keyboard didn’t have its uses, and in some ways it is even more functional than the on-screen keyboard in iOS.

vanilla

For starters when the shift isn’t tapped, all of the characters on the keyboard are represented in their lowercase state.

shift

And the differences between option

option

and shift-option are clearly visible.

shift-option

The Newton on-screen keyboard was never a replacement for the pen, but even without multitouch it could still be used to enter information with the tip of your finger. The context-aware number pad was a useful feature for entering phone numbers and performing quick calculations on the go.

numpad

Starting with the release of iOS 8, Apple will begin letting developers take a crack at designing their own third-party keyboards. Maybe it should come as no surprise that the Newton enabled third-party on-screen keyboards more than two decades earlier.

The FITALY One-Finger Keyboard for the Newton is a stand-alone utility usable as an ergonomic replacement for the standard QWERTY on-screen keyboard.

fitaly

The Newton will always be known as that “ little scribble thing” to some, but it is hard to deny the important features Newton OS pioneered for mobile on-screen keyboards.


  1. Key Caps 1.0 is a fairly useless Desktop Accessory. It’s useless because when you press a modifier key (Shift, Command, or Option), Key Caps doesn’t change to show you the special characters associated with that modifier.

Sun 8/24 Docklings

docklings

Yesterday, Stephen Hackett described the transformation from System 7′s Control Strip to today’s Menu Bar extras. But he left out one often-overlooked stage of Control Strip evolution; the Dockling1.

Page 229 of Dan Frakes’ Mac OS X Power Tools describes the Dockling.

In early versions of Mac OS X, Apple provided small Dock-based applications called Docklings. These applications didn’t have any menus in the menu bar, and you couldn’t even switch to them—they existed only in the Dock, and all their functionality was provided via their Dock icon and menu.

The three Docklings that shipped with Mac OS X 10.0 provided similar functionality to their corresponding classic Mac OS Control Strip modules; display resolution, Airport signal strength, and battery life. Despite the Docklings private API, third-party examples of Docklings quickly became available. But by the time Mac OS X 10.1 was released, “many of the features that made Docklings so popular—such as custom Dock menus—were available in normal applications.”

The Dockling was short-lived, but its legacy lives on in the contextual menus and live icons our docked applications enjoy today.


  1. Can you blame him? Stephen Hackett was only 9 when Mac OS X was first released.

Fri 8/22 What’s a Twitter Timeline?

Twitter has updated its help document, “What’s a Twitter timeline?” And a lot of popular tech personalities are concerned over this amendment.

Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.

Stephen Hackett:

My Twitter timeline is relevant and interesting to me because I set it up. Twitter’s genius is that people can build their own experiences; I don’t want an algorithm made by a hipster developer interfering with that.

As far as I am concerned, we had our chance to cultivate our own social network on App.net, and we blew it. Now who ever wants to stay with the bird has to live with the consequences. You never know what will show up in your timeline next.