The eMate 300 was released in the midst of Apple's tumultuous economic period, with Gil Amelio at the helm, and little more than red ink flowing from the 'doomed' company. In an attempt to reach Apple's traditional base, a Newton for education was developed.
The rugged eMate 300, designed for student use, was designed to take abuse that would make any PowerBook or MessagePad user scream in horror. It has a translucent shell to protect it from drops from desks, backpacks, etc. It also hides all the circuitry within the confines of the shell to prevent any dirt, food, drinks, or water from shorting out the machine. The keyboard has function keys on the top, which replace the button bar of the MessagePads. But probably the most appealing feature for its young demographic is the fact that it looks really cool. The eMate 300's translucent green shell allows light to shine through and appears to be almost organic. Curves are everywhere, even in the hinge of the screen. With its color and curves, the machine is impossible not to touch and feel. On the sides are the PC Card slot and serial and interconnect port. Unlike the MessagePad 2000, the eMate 300 has only one PC Card slot, and it is not CardBus compatible. Just ahead of the ports and slots are two holes that are used to hold the stylus upright when not in use.
Waking up immediately when the lid is opened, the eMate automatically brings its word processing/drawing suite as the backdrop. Both apps are refined and easy to use, similar in functions to MacWrite and MacDraw. The apps are capable of printing and converting documents into Office and ClarisWorks formats for desktop editing.
Waking up immediately after the lid is opened, the eMate already brings its word processing/drawing suite as the backdrop. Both apps are refined and easy to use, similar in functions to MacWrite and MacDraw. The apps are capable of printing and converting documents into Office and ClarisWorks formats for desktop editing.
With a keyboard fitted for children's hands, the eMate was primarily marketed to primary education. Despite the smaller than average (think a little smaller than a Duo 230) keyboard, the machine is a good companion to any adult who needs to quickly take notes or type reports. The Newton OS was not designed with a keyboard in mind, but it is still useful, especially with its 'Close' and backlighting key that were not present on the earlier Newton Keyboard.
Just as on all other Newtons, the eMate also includes the excellent handwriting recognition that made its debut with Newton OS 2.0. The display can be rotated 250 degrees to use the machine in slate mode for easier handwriting recognition, or for the odd application that requires Portrait mode enabled. When I am taking notes in lectures or reading books, I will rotate the display. to the side, and use the machine as a normal 'slate' with HWR disabled.
The eMate includes all of the standard Newton software: Notes, Dates, Names, Calculator and various system utilities. Notes has an integrated outline mode that allows for rudimentary manipulation, and is compatible with Ink Text, allowing you to bypass handwriting recognition, and save a lot of time in the process. An ordinary mode devoid of topics is also available, also allowing for Ink text.
With few distinguishing features, Dates and Names are fairly mundane PDA fare. A nifty feature in Dates is the Agenda view, similar to the Today screen of the Pocket PC, except the Agenda view allows users to change their schedule and to do list without launching the Dates application.
At the push of a button, the eMate opens the Assist slip, a slip is a modal dialog box on the Newton. The Assist slip is a major time saver, allowing users to create new records through plain english. By opening the slip and typing "Meeting 3:30 w/ Rick", a new meeting will be created at the appropriate time with a link to Rick's name card, if he has one. Users can also use the graphing calculator, adding machine-style calculator, conversions utility, and fax send/receive that are all built in the eMate.
Robust communications capabilities make the eMate an especially useful tool in a classroom setting. Students can share data and files they create on the eMate 300, with both Mac OS and Windows software based computers. By doing preliminary work on the eMate and then enhancing it on a desktop computer, students can use the eMate 300 as a perfect companion to the computers that already exist in the classroom or at home. The serial port, Newton InterConnect Port, and PC Card slot makes it easy to print, share, and backup any work done on the eMate 300. TCP/IP capabilities the protocol of the internet offers students access to materials on the internet, and let them send and receive e-mail so they can conduct research and keep on top of lessons. And with built-in infrared technology, the eMate lets educators and students "beam" their work to one another for quick, easy file sharing.
The eMate offers many compelling features not found on other platforms. I recommend it, but only to those who know its limitations. Users will be hard pressed to find packages for some categories, and very few commercial vendors are still developing for the Newton. To sync with a machine without a serial port, the machine either requires a serial adapter, or ethernet card for the eMate. The eMate is very slow compared to modern PDA's. Do not expect to play MP3's while you surf the net.
Despite the machines limitations, it is an ideal set up for students unwilling to subject expensive notebooks to the abuses of backpacks and friends, while allowing users to type pages of text, or jot down quick notes The eMate will last for years with reasonable care, and will offer portability unmatched in consumer notebooks, with its 20+ hour battery life. The eMate is an exquisite machine that I love dearly.