Thanks to a seemingly endless string of iconic products, Apple design guru Jony Ive’s name has long been synonymous with award-winning industrial design. When one thinks of Ive’s greatest creations, it’s only natural to conjure up products created in the Steve Jobs part-deux era, beginning, of course, with the Bondi Blue iMac.
But Ive’s career at Apple began all the way back in 1992, nearly a decade before the iPod was unveiled and a good five years before Jobs returned to the fray. Ive’s first design project at Apple, interestingly enough, was the Apple MessagePad 110 (internally codenamed Lindy). It’s funny to think that Ive has been at Apple for so long that he actually helped design a device that ran the Newton OS.
In Leander Kahney’s new book, Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products, Kahney details the work and dedication Ive put in when designing the MessagePad 110, the first product Ive was ever tasked with designing as an Apple employee.
Ive added a spring-loaded cover for the Lindy that popped open after you pressed it. He also integrated the pen at the top of the device. The pen telescoped out to fit in the device.
“I insisted the lid fold up and over the top, like a stenographer’s notepad, which everyone understands … The stored pen at the top where a stenographer’s notepad’s spiral binding would be, made the right connection,” said Ive. He thought the original Newton was too foreign, so he tried to make the Lindy more relatable.
Ive went from his initial design concept to a foam model in two weeks, the fastest anyone at Apple had ever seen, says Kahney. When it was being made, Ive stayed at [a] hotel in Taiwan near Apple’s manufacturer to help get the product right.
He basically broke his back; spent an enormous amount of time in Taiwan getting that thing just right. It was beautiful. Well executed. It worked really well. It was an amazing product,” said Robert Brunner, who led Apple’s Industrial Design group at the time.
The Ive-designed Newton MessagePad was released in March of 1994 and would go on to win a number of industrial design awards. Of course, when Jobs returned to Apple a few years later, one of the first things he did was axe the Newton.
As a point of interest, here’s what the packaging for the MessagePad 110 looked like. Apple’s packaging sure has come a long way since then. To borrow an over-used phrase from Ive himself, this box is unapolegetically ’90s.
Lastly, and for any Apple history heads out there, this is how Apple, back in 1994, touted the features of the Newton MessagePad 110:
The Newton MessagePad 110 personal digital assistant can help you manage information; stay in touch via fax, e-mail, and paging; and exchange information with your computer. It’s the second member of the Newton family, and has more than three times the memory space and twice the battery life of the original Newton MessagePad. It can help you stay in and communicate more effectively. You can send faxes and receive pages and messages. Tap into on-line services or electronic mail. Even exchange business cards via built-in infrared technology. It can help you share and synchronize information with your Windows-based or Macintosh computer. It can help you organize ideas. Take notes. Make sketches. Format and print letters. And you can expand its capabilities with new software titles that help you keep track of your time, find your way around unfamiliar cities, and even deliver better-organized speeches.
The Newton MessagePad 110 has powerful handwriting-recognition capabilities for both printed and cursive writing. So it can transform your handwriting into text letter by letter or word by word. It can also leave your notes handwritten should you wish to defer recognition until later. And as time goes by, it learns about you, your handwriting, and the way you work, helping you get more done. It comes with a built-in notepad, to-do list, datebook, and name file to get you started. And when combined with software titles offering new capabilities, the Newton MessagePad is your personal assistant with all the right connections and is likely to become your most treasured possession.