This post in one of a series of posts that I am writing for retro tech and vintage Apple enthusiasts on how to use your Apple Newton MessasgePad or eMate in 2021. The collected information from these posts can be found on the SPF Newton page.
One of the things that I have been wanting to do with my Newton OS devices, and my newfound interest in them was connect them to a vintage Macintosh using the software that shipped with them. For me, that meant getting my Newton MessagePad 2000, 2100, and eMate 300 connected to a Power Macintosh G4 Quicksilver using an Apple mini DIN 8 serial cable. Here’s what I used to my Newton OS 2.1 devices talking to my Classic Mac OS 9.2.1 Mac.
The first thing I needed to do was get my G4 back into working condition. That was no easy task. But the Quicksilver lacks mini DIN 8 serial ports. My next task would be to track down one of USB-to-Serial adapters that were popular accessories for Mac owners who upgraded from a beige Mac with two built in mini DIN 8 serial ports to the colorful iMac G3 or later Macintosh that only had USB-A ports.
I ended up picking up a beige Keyspan USA-28 Twin Serial to USB-A Adapter on eBay. Keyspan was later acquired by Tripp-Lite. The adapter I purchased didn’t come with the packaging, manual, or software driver. It turned out that the Keyspan USA28-GX adapter was the far more popular model, and its drivers were much easier to find. I tried using the USA28-GX Mac OS 9 driver with my USA28 adapter and I was disappointed to find out that the USA28-GX driver installer was not backwards compatible with the USA28. Thankfully, I eventually found a copy of the Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X Keyspan USA28 drivers on the archive website MacintoshGarden.com.
With the adapter and driver situation sorted out, I needed to get the original Newton synchronization software called Newton Connection Utilities (NCU). It is important to take a moment here and call out a difference in Newton synchronization software.
If you have a Newton OS 2.0 or 2.1 device, like I do, you need NCU. Apple-branded Newton OS 2.x devices include the MessagePad 2000, the MessagePad 2100, and the eMate 300. If you are trying to connect the original Newton MessagePad, or any of the other Apple-branded MessagePad 100-series devices, you need to use Newton Connect Kit (NCK), which all run Newton OS 1.x.
Normally, NCU or NCK come bundled with the MessagePad or eMate on 3.5″ floppy disks or a CD. Since my second hand MessagePad 2000 didn’t come with its software or manuals, I needed to turn to Internet archives to find the installers I needed for Mac OS 9. Both NCU and NCK, as well as the Newton Package Installer and Newton Backup utilities, can be found on the United Network of Newton Archives (UNNA) repository since Apple removed the downloads from their website a long time ago.
Once you have your adapter driver and connection software sorted, the last thing you will need is a mini DIN 8 Male to mini DIN 8 Male cable and a Newton Interconnect Adapter if you are using a MessagePad 2000 or 2100.
To initiate the connection between the Newton and the Mac:
- Plug in the USB-A to mini DIN 8 seral adapter
- Plug in one end of the mini DIN 8 serial cable into the port 1 on the adapter
- Launch NCU (Newton OS 2.x) or NCK (Newton OS 1.x)
- In the NCU Preferences box, I checked all of the connection types
- Plug in the serial cable (and Newton Interconnect adapter for MessagePad 2×00)
- On the MessagePad or eMate, tap the Dock icon, select Serial, and tap Connect
After a few seconds, if everything is in order, the Newton OS device will connect to your Mac and display the sync tools slip on the Netwon and show a Connected status in NCU/NCK.