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A) System Versions

1) What are the different versions of the Newton OS (NOS)?

The Newton OS is burned into ROM. Hence the version depends on the model of Newton you have (cf the table of the models). However, some upgrades do exist.

2) What are the system upgrades for my Newton? Which one is the latest? Where can I find it?

Upgrades can be found on various sites, including Newton Source:

Updates are in fact installer packages (which auto-remove themselves), and they all include a system version checking mechanism: you cannot damage your Newton by installing a wrong update: it will simply not install.

Latest upgrades are:

a) US & International English updates

The 6 digit system update was introduced with NOS 1.3 to fix the confusion with previous system patches numbers. Indeed, the pre 1.3 systems are divided into 1.0.x ROMs and 1.1.x ROMs which, with system updates, are more or less equivalent:

1.0.x ROM       1.1.x ROM

That means 1.02 is equivalent to 1.10, but 1.05 is more recent than 1.11.

MP2x00 710031 was designed by me [Paul Guyot] after Apple discontinued NewtonOS with little information. Hence there may be some problems although none were reported. It fixes the Date/Find bug. For copyright reasons, I only published an updater, one for MacOS and one for Windows. They can be found on Kallisys website:

MP120 2.0 and MP130 updates can be found in .hqx or .zip/.exe at:

All apple updates (MacOS or Windoze) can be found at:

All system patches can be found on UNNA:

b) German updates

OMP upgrades are very rare upgrades which can be found at:

Other upgrades can be found in .hqx or .exe at: and (sea.bin or .hqx):

All German system patches can also be found at UNNA:

c) French updates

The MP110 system update is available at UNNA:

d) What is the numbering system?

That's a direct quotation from Walter Smith (

The numbering system originated as a response to customer irrationality. :-) Because each patch applies to a single ROM image, there are multiple patches that produce the same end result. The exact numbers may be off, but let's say the OMP had version 1.0 software, then the MP100 came out with version 1.1. We released an update for the OMP that brought it up to date, and gave it version 1.01.

The problem here is that even though 1.01 and 1.1 are functionally equivalent, people with OMPs were unhappy because their version number was lower. There was lots of misinformation floating around about "upgrading" 1.01 to 1.1, meaningless though that actually was. It got even worse when 1.1 was patched, so you had 1.03 vs. 1.12.

To address this, we had to distinguish between the actual version number that tells tech support what software the customer has and the end-user version number that tells the customer what functionality they have. The six-digit number is unique to a particular update (software version), and the x.y number indicates what functionality you get when the update is applied (end-user version).

Unfortunately, some customers are a little too smart to fall for that, so there's still all sorts of consternation over the supposedly meaningless system update numbers.

The actual scheme is some combination of the ROM version the update applies to and the date the patch was generated. I don't remember the details.

Here there are: (but that's my own interpretation, although I was helped by Henry Cate's answer to Walter's post (both of them worked in the Newton department at Apple))

The question then is: how will we do with years 2000's? Was the discontinuing of Newton planned from the beginning (at least before the 52nd day of 1994) by Apple? With 710031, I (Paul Guyot) coded year 2000 with a 0. However, 710031 seems lower than 717260. Hence, Avi Drissman suggested to now code year 2000 with an A.

3) How do I find out which NOS version I have?

This depends on the OS itself.

If you have a 1.x OS: Go to the preferences. It appears at center-bottom of screen.

If you have a 2.x OS: Go to the Extras Drawer, select the i button, then Memory Info. You can read something like: ROM Version 2.1 (710031)-1

4) What are the differences between the versions of the OS?

a) NOS 2.x is really different from NOS 1.x

You can read the doc about it at:

b) NOS 2.1 has a few more features compared to NOS 2.0.

NewtWorks support, gray scale, sound manager,...

c) Latest revision (US MP2x00: 710031) of NOS 2.1

717260 introduces some changes with the contrast button (allowing greater contrast control), and fixes a few bugs concerning memory, printing, faxing and PC cards. See the Read Me file that comes with the 717260 upgrade for more details.

The 710031 patch (US MP2x00 only) also fixes the Dates/Find bug.

d) eMate 737246

See the Read Me file that comes with the 737246 upgrade for more details.

B) Using the Newton OS

1) How do I find the Newton's built-in helpbook?

Tap the i button in the lower left hand corner of the screen, and then select "help". This general helpbook is provided in all built-in programs. Some third party programs can also access the built-in helpbook or their own particular helpbook via the i button.

You can also tap the "How Do I?" button in the Assistant (at least with NOS 2.x). Or tap the help icon in the Extras Drawer.

2) What are the various ways the Newton can be reset?

Pressing the power button does not "reset" or "restart" your Newton. The power button isn't really a power button per se -- it's more of a "go to sleep" button. Unlike other computers, the Newton never completely turns off. It's closer to being in a suspended or sleeping state. It is still able to receive beams, faxes, or wake you up if you configured it to do so.

The Newton has a number of ways of resetting/rebooting, in various levels of severity. Four of them, for the original MessagePad and MP1x0 models, are described in Apple's article But actually, this article applies to MP1xx models.

a) Soft Reset

This is the most straightforward of the four resets. Just press the "Reset" button on the back of your Newton with your stylus. Alternatively, many software packages have the ability to perform a soft reset.

A soft reset can be helpful if the Newton becomes sluggish or runs out of heap memory. You will NOT lose any data doing a soft reset.

b) Deep Reset

The Deep reset is similar to a soft reset. You tap the reset button on the back of the Newton, but this time hold it down for about 20 seconds, until the Newton chimes. This reset is used when there's a power problem with your Newton, or there's a problem when doing a standard restart. It resets at a slightly lower level than a soft reset.

c) Reset With Extensions Off

A reset with extensions off allows you to reset your Newton but not load any packages. It's as if all packages were frozen. This returns the Newton to an almost virgin state, and is useful if you're having conflicts between two packages, or when you need to maximize heap for a certain procedure. With no packages loaded, your Newton will have it's maximum amount of heap available.

To perform a reset with extensions off, hit the reset button, on the back of the Newton and then flip the Newton over so the screen is facing you, as for normal usage. Immediately hold the pen down halfway down the left edge of the screen, about a centimeter from the casing, down the screen. Keep holding the pen there, and soon a dialog box will appear asking if you'd like to activate packages on the store "Internal". Answer "no." If you have any PC cards installed, return the pen to the left edge and keep holding it down. You'll then get the same dialog for each card. Answer "no" to each. Your Newton now is restarted with no packages loaded.

You will NOT lose data doing a reset with extensions off. However, if you have a third party application as the Backdrop, (such as Backdrop Plus) it will be replaced with the NotePad, so you'll have to re-designate it as the Backdrop.

d) MP2000 and MP2100 Power-Drain Reset

The MP2000 and MP2100 have a special last-resort reset which cures most ills, but doesn't lose any of your data. It's simple: remove the batteries, cards, and the power adapter. Don't worry, your data is safe. Let your Newton sit by itself for several hours. Then put in fresh batteries, plug in the power adapter, and press reset.

e) Hard Reset ("Brainwipe")

Before you perform a hard reset, first remove all PCMCIA cards from the Newton (this is really important, otherwise you may destroy the card!).

This hard reset WILL ERASE EVERYTHING ON YOUR NEWTON. Use it with caution, and usually only as a last resort. If you are performing a Backup and Restore Cycle, you will want to perform a hard reset after the backup and before the restore. Other than that, you will probably never perform one; unless you have major data corruption, or are selling your Newton.

To perform a Hard reset, tap the reset button, while holding down the power switch. You will be presented with a dialog box asking "Do you want to erase data completely" . Tap Yes if you want to perform the Hard reset and erase everything on the Newton. You will be asked to reconfirm your selection, and then the data will be erased.

f) Cold boot

(From Apple's article which only applies to the OMP and 1x0 models.)

A Cold Boot erases all data, any System Update installed, and sets the Newton OS back to factory defaults. There are two methods to do this.

WARNING: You should backup your data prior to a Cold Boot.

Method 1

Method 2


3) Transferring data to and from the Newton

a) What are the various methods to input data on the Newton?

There are many ways to input data:

b) What are the various methods of transferring data, to/from the desktop?

You can:

I suggest that you read the Connection FAQ for more details:

c) Can I use IrDA (infrared) to transfer information between my desktop and my 2.x Newton?

This does not seem to be supported by Apple tools (NCU, NBU, etc.).

It is possible to use a terminal emulator and Sloup to communicate via IrDA:

There is a special page about this issue:

You can also use Thomas Tempelmann's Newton Data Browser (IrDA only works on MacOS PPC) to connect to the Dock application of your MP2x00/eMate 300.

d) What are the various methods to synchronize my data with a desktop computer?

The easiest way to synchronize is to use NCU for 2.x models. This software can synchronize with Now UpToDates, Now Contacts, Claris Organizer and Palm Desktop for MacOS, Schedule+ 7.0 and Lotus Organizer 2.1 for Windows.

You can also use Cadenza, available on UNNA with Lotus Notes. The Cadenza documentation says that you can synchronize with Lotus Notes 4.5, 4.6, but Harri Hohteri reports that it works with the R5 (especially 5.0.8). It's not clear whether Lotus Notes R5 normally comes with nnotes.dll or not, but this file seems to be required (it's included in 4.5/4.6 versions).

You can also use Newtourage from DelCann Software for synchronizing with Entourage on MacOS:

There are Unix softwares to synchronize, import and export with, to and from Unix softwares. Cf Linux-Newton mini HowTo:

You can also use Notes2Notes to synchronize between the NotePad and Microsoft Outlook 97, 98 & 2000: - requires Sloup

I suggest that you read the Connection FAQ for more details:

e) What are the various terminal softwares available for Newton?
f) How can I transfer data between my Newton and another PDA?

4) What are the alternatives to the original HWR?

You can use other recognizers:

You also can use software that improves the Newton's original HWR:

5) Can I change the fax cover page?

Yes, you can use Fax Cover Creator by Standalone Software. You can find it on their website and on UNNA:

6) How do I find information about a specific package in Extras?

There are several 3rd party utilities that will do this.

7) How do I take screen shots?

There are several ways:

8) Where can I find my Newton's ID?

Since NewtonOS 2.0, each Newton have a hardware unique NewtonID which is accessible from software. The easiest way to get it is to use Adam Tow's NewtonID software at

The Newton ID has no (direct) link with the Newton's serial number, but it uniquely identifies the unit nevertheless, and even if the serial number sticker is removed.

On the 2.1 devices, the Newton ID is stored in a specialized chip, the Dallas Semiconductor DS2401 Serial Number ROM. If Apple changes your motherboard, your Newton ID will be changed as well.

C) Troubleshooting

1) Is the Newton Y2K compliant?

Apparently so:

However, different date/time related problems might occur starting in 2010, 2099 and 2924 (should you be so lucky to be alive, with a functioning Newton). These problems are discussed here:

And Avi Drissman made an experimental fix for that:

2) Are there known bugs in the Newton OS?

NewtonOS has some un fixed bugs in it. There is a bugs repository on Newton Resources which probably includes more informations than what can be found here. This list is actually here for historical reasons, but is no longer maintained now this repository exists.

b) I've heard about the nasty -10061 error on MP2x and eMate -- how can I reduce/prevent this?

This only happens on devices with 4MB DRAM memory (upgr eMate and 2100 or upgr 2000).

Information can be found in an article by Frank Wegener translated by George Oehl: or

There are fixes such as:

Since these programs take different approaches to fixing the -10061 problem, there are generally no conflicts even if you have several of the fixes installed at the same time.

b) What is the Dates/Find bug?

From Avi's pages:

This bug only happens on Newton OS 2.1. The bug is easy to see. Open up the Dates app, tap Find, and do a search for something that will be found in your dates (e.g. the letter "e"). From the list of results, select several and try to print them. Or fax them. Or even preview. It cannot be done. It has been fixed in System Update 710031 for US MP2x00. It is also fixed by Dates/Find Bugfix for eMates and German MP2x00:

c) When I write, sometimes pen strokes either do not appear or disappear.

This is a known bug. However, as far as I know, nobody has fixed it yet.

d) When I do a find with NewtWorks, the free memory amount falls.

This is a bug in Newton OS 2.1 protoTXViewFinder.FindString method. It is in ROM. However, a workaround fix exists (for Works only). It has been designed by Paul Guyot and can be freely downloaded from Kallisys website:

e) What are these -16022 errors every time I try to use my modem?

[From Victor Rehorst:]

There is a bug in NewtonOS 2.1 where the system is unable to detect which slot a modem is inserted in. To fix this error, first choose a slot where you will always have your modem inserted. Then, go to the Prefs panel from Extras and tap on Modem. Change the Connect Using setting ro either Right PC Card or Left PC Card, depending on the slot you've chosen.

f) When I insert a memory card, I get a -10582 error. What's wrong?

The -10582 error is kError_ATA_No_Partition. It is triggered when the built-in ATA card handler cannot find a Master Boot Record. Actually, it won't find it, even if the card was DOS formatted, because the driver in the ROM always reads zeroes. And even if it worked, the card handler isn't finished either.

The consequence is that you cannot use ATA cards with the Newton without a third-party driver. See which memory cards work with your Newton (IIB1).

g) When I insert a flash memory card, my MP2x00 tells me the battery in the card needs to be replaced.

This is a known bug. Your card probably doesn't have any battery. Install the latest system patch for your MP2x00 (see IIIA2a).

3) Packages on other platforms

a) On my Mac, the icon of a .pkg file is plain, and NPI refuses it.

The file's type and creator are not set properly. To fix it, you can use ResEdit and change the settings to "pkg " for the type and "pkgX" for the creator. (this is NPI creator. Some of your packages can have another creator, such as NTK creator code).

Steve Weyer wrote a simple program, PackType, that does that:

If you don't want this to happen again with your zipped packages or with the packages that you may download, you must add/correct the .pkg entry in the files mappings of Internet Config or Internet Control Panel in the latest MacOS.

b) When I download a .pkg via my Newton web browser, it's not recognized as a package.

Assuming the package was properly uploaded as a binary file, then the likely explanation is that the server is not providing the correct MIME type. You can ask the server administrator to use this Content-Type in MIME table: application/x-newton-compatible-pkg or you can contact your browser vendor to support additional MIME types.

c) I can't expand StuffIt archives (on both platform).

Aladdin published a new version of StuffIt Tools (5.x) which doesn't produce compatible archives with older tools. If you bought these tools, just get the expander which you'll find at

d) I have problems with a package on Windows

If you have an error using Windows unstuff utilities where file does not appear to be package format, set the CROSS PLATFORM preference to NEVER for 'Convert Text files to Windows format' and set to NEVER for 'Save Macintosh files in MacBinary format'. (Otherwise, Mac resource fork is left in).

If you have unzipped a .pkg file on a PC and it isn't recognized/installed properly, it might be because it is macbinary-encoded. You may be able to strip the MacBinary header using Pkg Stripper by Roger Milne:

4) Why does the I/O Box always open to outbox? Can I change that?

There was a problem in older versions of Newt's Cape (2.0a, 1.5) -- if you selected a mailto: link, it created a message in your Outbox and opened to that directly.

Some other softwares could have also changed the default setting which is to open to inbox. describes a fix that you can make from a soup editor (or just run the example in Newt's Cape).

5) Why does the available memory decrease when the Newton is idle?

This kind of memory usage is perfectly normal in a system like Newton that does automatic memory management (also similar to Smalltalk, Lisp, Java). As the event loop runs or even idles, the Newton creates temporary objects. (ala Heisenberg, just observing the state of the Newton in order to update time or amount of heap, uses heap). When this gets to a certain threshhold, the Newton reclaims memory by tracing/discarding items that aren't being referenced anymore by any other object (aka "garbage collection"). [From a developer's perspective, not having to worry about allocating and deallocating memory is great, compared to traditional language environments like C; things just eventually disappear if you stop referencing/using them]

A real "leak" happens if most of the heap isn't reclaimed. This could happen if an application hangs onto extra, unnecessary stuff even when closed. And this sometimes can happen also during soup (database) processing when the heap becomes partitioned/fragemented (an unfortunate memory management bug that Apple never got around to fixing...)

D) Miscellaneous

1) Where can I find informations about Easter Eggs?

There are plenty of Easter Eggs in the Newton. Best known are Rosetta!, eclipse, dates prefs, Groom Lake, About Newton?, Egg Freckles & hidden games.

Here are some links:

2) How are packages compressed? (The story of the compression bits)

Packages are compressed when loaded on the Newton (i.e. when transfered from a desktop computer). They are uncompressed on the fly when mapped on the Virtual Memory. This may result in a (little) slow down. The Newton OS compresses packages according to a flag called the compression bit. This flag is set by the programmer in NTK (NDE offers the same option). But it can be set on some packages that were not designed to be compressed.

Moreover, NOS 2.x packages also have a fast compression bit. Having it set reduces the compression gain, but it is said to speed up things. I have never felt an important change, however.

Some packages must not be compressed (so wrote Apple's guys in Newton Formats) because they need to be resident. This is very rare, so you may want to compress the uncompressed packages. To do so, you can use a software for MacOS called PackageFlag Changer 0.1a2 that can be found at:

Victor Rehorst wrote a software to change the flags of Newton Packages on Windows, NewtPackageFlags. It can be found on his website:

Kip from Prism Research enabled compression on some usual uncompressed packages:

3) How it all works

a) Newton Process Management

There are two kinds of processes on the Newton. First, there are lower-level operating system processes (such as handwriting recognition or the NewtonScript interpreter). Such processes are usually written in C++, though some have been written in assembly code. As of NewtonOS 2.0, third-party developers can write some (but not all) of their program code in this low-level C++ fashion as well.

The other kind of process is a "NewtonScript application". NewtonScript applications are not actually applications -- they're better thought of as plug-ins to the NewtonScript interpreter. Just like Java applications on other platforms, NewtonScript applications can be in a pcode format to be interpreted by the interpreter (slow), or can be compiled directly into machine code. The Newton even has a compiler built-in; it's possible to use this compiler to build NewtonScript applications directly on the Newton without ever using another computer. Nearly all the icons you see in the Extras Drawer are NewtonScript applications. There's a lot of NewtonScript stuff in the background too.

Does the Newton multitask? Yes and no. As we understand it, the Newton's underlying operating system has a preemptive multithreaded process manager; the inker, handwriting recognition, low-level I/O, and NewtonScript interpreter all run in separate processes. However, NewtonScript "applications" (like the Note Pad, or a third-party calculator, or the Button Bar, etc.) are not multitasked in any sense of the term. In fact, they are in essence different functions in the same big computer program hosted by the NewtonScript interpreter. They all share the same memory and run together in a single process. Any one application can hog all the processor power if it wants to. From a user's perspective, no, the Newton doesn't have preemptive multitasking. However, when two cards are inserted at the same time, maybe two NS tasks run at the same time.

The main way that NewtonScript applications "share" processor time is using an event model. Events (keystrokes, pen taps,incoming serial port information, etc.) are piled up at a low level into an event queue where they await processing by appropriate applications. NewtonScript applications register callback functions to be called when certain events occur that are germane to that application. NewtonScript calls these functions "scripts". When a callback function has been called and has completed its work, the processor is released from duty and some callback function is called for the next event in the queue. When no events are in the queue, the processor sleeps. Applications may register for timer events which occur periodically (once an hour, week, day, etc.). Applications may also register for "idle" events -- if there is no event presently in the queue, the processor every once in a while queues up an "idle" event and hands it off to a registered callback function. This allows applications to do work in the background all by themselves. Besides, since there is only one Event Loop, the system stops when there is nothing to do, awaiting for any event (including a clock change) which will wake it up. This allows the Newton to consume very few power.

b) Newton Memory Organization

The Newton Processor can access memory for 32 bits, i.e. 4 GB. All this memory is not used. There is globally five chunks dedicated to specific tasks:

The last area of memory is where the Newton's "File System" (so to speak) is managed. I (Paul Guyot) don't think that the processor can access it directly. (Hence one day, when we'll have collected enough information, I could write a scsi driver to use my 18.3 GB disk on my Newton.) This area consists of internal DRAM on some early units, internal Flash RAM on others, and of course all of the Flash or DRAM on inserted RAM cards. Flash RAM is not useful for the other chunks of memory, because it is far too slow to hold executing computer code or dynamic memory allocation. Flash RAM also can only be accessed in hunks of (16K) memory at a time, similar to a hard disk's sectors. But Flash RAM is excellent for storing archival information, since it does not require battery backup.

When the user presses the reset button on a Newton, certain chunks of the DRAM are wiped clean and the system is restarted. This basically means the RAM which holds the executing computer code, the allocated C++ memory, and the NewtonScript heap. The low-level system areas and the "file system" storage of course remain intact.

c) The Newton 'File System'

The Newton does not have a file system per se. It has a shallow database system. The newton considers its internal storage, and each inserted card, as a separate "store" (a volume). On any store may be placed either read/write "soups" (databases), or read-only objects called "packages".

Packages are roughly equivalent to application programs, though they may also be storage areas or plug-ins. They consist of bundles of "parts". A "part" might be a chunk of executable computer code, a set of large binary objects, a read-only embedded soup,etc. Packages can be stored in compressed or uncompressed format on the Newton. They are always uncompressed on desktop computers.

A soup is a simple one-table database of "entries" which may be indexed in many ways and over which a variety of queries may be made. Various soups store the Newton's equivalent of "documents" or "files". The newton has a rich set of indexing and querying mechanisms for soups. One important index is the "tags" index. Soup entries may be "tagged" with some user-defined string; applications use these tags to give the illusion of filing entries into "folders", one folder per user-defined string. This is for example the case when filing programs in the Extras Drawer.

Soups have an accompanying ID symbol which represents a soup of that "kind"; this ID is assigned to a soup by the application which created it and uses it. For example, Hemlock maintains two soups, each with a different ID. One soup holds Hemlock's search engines, and the other holds Hemlock's current query results.

Soups on different stores may have the same ID, meaning that they are the same kind of soup, just spread out on different cards. When applications access soups, they usually do so by querying and accessing a "union soup" object. From an application's perspective, union soups merge all the soups of a given ID on different stores into one unified soup for that ID. This happens dynamically; when a user adds or removes cards, the union soup changes automatically, each application is notified, and they update their presentation to the user to reflect this. For example, when the user yanks a card containing a Note Pad soup, the appropriate soup entries (hence "notes") in the Note Pad's union soup automatically disappear, the Note Pad is notified, and its display is updated to show that these entries are now gone. It is this general philosophy of treating documents as database entries in a global union soup which is why the Newtons are so graceful at handling multiple cards yanked and inserted while applications are running.

There are a few global soups which all applications use; the most important one is the "System" Soup, which stores global information for applications, commmonly application preferences. When applications are installed they often will insert an entry into this soup to store their preferences, but when they are deleted they very often forget to remove this entry. As a result the System soup grows and grows. Some users have reported a bloated System soup as a key culprit in the "squiggles", a Newton condition where the Newton cannot properly register the location of the pen.

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