iZac, iiZac and ProZac

iZac and iiZac are my twin Newtons. iiZac is brighter than iZac (because of the backlight), but they look identical when they're sleeping next to each other. ProZac is my eMate. You can see pictures of most of the family (iZac, iiZac, ProZac, myBook and I/O Silver) in my photo gallery.

iZac is my Newton (or Oldton) MessagePad 110. I bought iZac secondhand in the middle of 2000, because I'd always wanted to have a play with a Newton and never had a chance to. I also realised, after at first dismissing the idea of buying the Newton as being an indulgence which should wait until I had more spare money, that the Newton would be very useful. For much of semester 2 of 2000, iZac replaced paper for my university notetaking, and also entertained me with games during the most condescending classes. When I first learnt to write, my mother and teachers unsuccessfully tried to make me write each letter beginning from the top instead of the bottom. I guess I didn't see the point of writing a way that was unnatural for me just because other people did - after all, people usually only see the finished product, which I hope is just as readable. After all their failed attempts, my Newton quickly got me starting letters from the expected places! Well, with most letters I can get away with beginning at the bottom, but there's no way I can get iZac to recognise my S without beginning at the top.

Since iZac is always with me, he often gets used for storing acronyms that I think of on the go, and for entertaining me with various games. iZac was extremely useful when I went to Palmerston North for a contact course for an extramural maths paper - there was a ten hour bus trip each way. I downloaded 'The Strange Tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' onto him and read it on the bus trips, occasionally stopping to write acronyms or play a few games. iZac also served as my alarm clock while I was in Palmerston North, and I use him as a calendar/scheduler a lot. iZac is also used for shopping lists, mainly just so I can walk around the supermarket showing off that I have a Newton, however out-of-date it is.

iZac being out of date was in fact an advantage, because Different Thought had a Macintosh serial port to connect to iZac with, whereas she wouldn't have been able to communicate with a newer handheld. The advantage was shortlived, however... now that Different Thought is gone and I have an iBook, I can't load any more packages onto my Newton - it's a good thing I pretty much have the software I need on it, although it would have been nice to be able to read some more Newton books. Actually, my sister's fiance has a few Newtons on loan and he can connect one of them to his PC, so pretty soon I should be able to transfer some software off that. Maybe one day I'll get a serial adaptor for myBook and use NewTen.

iiZac joined the family on 20 July 2002. iiZac is a Newton MessagePad 130, which means he has a backlight and Newton OS 2.0 - two things I really wanted to play with. With more memory than iZac, iiZac looks like he'll be a great portable acronym studio - I must be able to get a dictionary and thesaurus as Newton books. Of course there are also many games and other applications which only iiZac can use.

ProZac is the newest addition, adopted in June 2003. ProZac promises to be the educational Newton he was made to be. I'm planning to do a postgraduate maths paper next semester, and it sure is tedious writing equations on a normal laptop - getting the ink off the screen afterwards is a mission. With ProZac I'll be able to scribble down complicated equations, look at them in the graphing calculator, and type any English notes. All with a machine made six years ago. Meanwhile, anyone else with a laptop will be struggling to get the equations down either in software or on paper.

That said, hopefully there will be ample handouts so I can just sit there digesting the information. I never was one to take notes... for me, taking notes is more about the technology I'm using to take notes with than the actual content of the notes. I know I can remember things or look them up in books.

I actually think that even iZac (the second model ever made, in a product line now long dead) is better than modern handheld computers in some ways. Sure, he's larger, but that means there's space for a larger screen - definitely a good thing in my opinion. iZac also has a PCMCIA slot, which I don't have anything to put into other than flash cards but I think is a great idea - it seems like PCMCIA was made for devices that size. What PC users complain about iMacs is true about modern PDAs... they're not (internally) expandable! The handwriting recognition on the Newton is far from perfect (it's entertaining though, and sometimes helpful! And it's true that iiZac with Newton OS 2.0 is better at it than iZac) but at least it tries to adapt to the user, rather than the user having to adapt to it by writing with special letter-like symbols as in Graffiti. Graffiti is probably better, but the idea of the user having to adapt rather than the computer doesn't sit well with me. And yeah, I know that the user has to adapt to a more consistent writing style to write on a Newton... but if there were more development on the handwriting recognition, that wouldn't be the case, whereas the way Grafitti is designed there would always have to be some human adaption. Oh, I also like being able to write straight onto where I want text to appear, rather than down the bottom like on a Palm. I'm not saying that Newtons are altogether better than Palms and other current handheld computers... that would be difficult for something so old - but they have some advantages, in my opinion. Newton 2100s are still way faster than Palms, too - faster than Different Thought too.

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