<10 years but On Topic
'Computer Collector Newsletter'
news at computercollector.com
Thu Jul 21 11:31:26 CDT 2005
Sony / General Magic definitely produced some interesting products. In
fact, not only did the operating system spawn from an Apple R&D project (as
is widely known), the hardware itself also did (as is not widely known!)...
there were a couple of handheld computing projects happening simultaneously
to the Newton research in the early 1990s; the most relevant to the
DataRover were a project called Pocket Mac, aka "Swatch", and a pen-based
Mac portable dubbed "Rolex".
Here's what I wrote about it a few months ago, for those who haven't seen my
...Paul Mercer devised Swatch, also known as Pocket Mac, in late 1990. He'd
been working on the Macintosh operating system, became aware of Junior's
technical problems, and was encouraged by colleagues on that team to pursue
"something small", as explained in the book Apple: The Inside Story by Jim
Carlton. I asked Mercer to elaborate further. He explained that he was aware
of the pros and cons of existing products from Casio and Sharp, and was
especially influenced by the Sony PalmTop. He took one apart and realized it
contained a Motorola 68000 processor, which was proof that a Macintosh-like
device could be built small enough and run on battery power. To start,
Mercer worked on a pen version of the Apple PowerBook, dubbed Rolex - a
high-end product vs. Swatch - but his excitement was for the latter project.
He slyly code-named its software Karoshi, the Japanese word approximately
meaning "death from overwork". Ultimately, and with knowledge gained from
Smartifacts, the Swatch prototype was a typical PDA size at 4.25 inches wide
x 6.5 inches tall x 1 inch thick, and as with later products like those from
Palm, Mercer's team designed it as a peripheral to a desktop computer
(Macintosh of course). He estimated that it would take $200 to build one,
selling for $400. His team produced 10 hand-made units in various colors,
initially based on the PowerBook design (but six months before the PowerBook
launched) of dark gray plastic with a colored Apple logo in the center. A
similar design was used for the early Newton models. Swatch's software was a
late version of Mac System 6 and Mercer modified a version of the Mac
Classic ROM, all attached to a dissected Sony PalmTop chassis and
motherboard. It ran most of the traditional Macintosh software, such as
Finder and MacPaint, along with a custom note-taking application compatible
with Claris Write documents. Full handwriting recognition wasn't completed,
but methods such as scrubbing to erase text, a gesture for opening the
system panel, and way to make traditional mouse double-clicks work with a
stylus were all successfully developed. Those are noteworthy accomplishments
since they had to work with a pre-existing operating system that was never
intended for pen input, unlike the Newton's software. (Apple CEO John
Sculley and others were impressed with the product, but killed it anyway
because they already were working with Sharp, a main Sony rival, on the
Newton. Mercer was then transferred to the Newton team, and brought along
Swatch's puff-cloud animation that appears when text is erased, along with
graphics for the help system. Frustrated, he left Apple in 1994.
From: cctalk-bounces at classiccmp.org [mailto:cctalk-bounces at classiccmp.org]
On Behalf Of John Allain
Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2005 11:50 AM
To: General Discussion: On-Topic and Off-Topic Posts
Subject: <10 years but On Topic
I just got my first taste of the General Magic DataRover 840 and man is it a
Here's an intro although I believe that several designers may be on list to
tell you more.
It's sort of like the first hard drive Mac simplified by half and made
pocket sized. More Newton sized than Palm.
The screen is really high resolution for a pocket machine, much better than
Palm. The O/S and apps have all the cleverness you might expect from Apple,
but a little more streamlined for quick use. There's the pictoral desktop,
a hallway with file cabinets, etc. great graphics all around.
Surprising this isn't used on all Cellphones at this point, I believe it was
attempted for some.
Hardware includes A Phone port for Voice, Fax, and Internet connectivity.
PCMCIA*2 ports. A form of IRDa, and a small port that may be a form of SCSI
since there is a driver for that.
They're practically giving them away right now, even on eBay so hence the
mention. This situation will definitely not be the same in 5 years.
I think it deserves inclusion here even though at 7 years (1998) it's out of
band formally, but due to to the severe Crash and burn of both the product,
which couldn't fight both CE and Palm, and of the company (Internet
bubbled?) it's becoming _ancient_ history real fast. The sudden death of
everything makes it difficult to find outside information, accesories and so
on Today, but what you get is a great machine
Not SPAM, just happy with the find.
Keywords: DataRover 840, Magic Cap O/S, General Magic Inc.
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