October 30th, 2004

Beat Up Martin / Eat Up Martha

New York Times Magazine has an article on when customer loyalty outlasts the product (instead of "followers" I would have called them "evangelists", since these days, word of mouth being more important than ever, consumers are becoming the biggest boosters for a company's products), Rob Walker writes about the Apple Newton:

The devotion of Newton users is all the more extraordinary because the product, introduced in the early 1990's, was a notorious flop. The Newton, you may recall, was a forerunner of today's popular Personal Digital Assistants, like the PalmPilot, that rely on a penlike stylus. (According to the lore, a series of ''Doonesbury'' installments mocking early handwriting-recognition problems was a pivotal event in the Newton's sad trajectory; in any case, this was an instance when the ''early adopters'' so beloved by tech-business gurus were laughed out of the room.)

The Simpsons also made fun of the handwriting recognition of the Newton:

Principal Skinner [speaking at an assembly]: Children, the times they are a-becoming quite different. Test scores are at an all-time low, so I've come up with these academic alerts. [hold stack of cards] You will receive one as soon as your grades start to slip in any subject. This way your parents won't have to wait until report card time to punish you.
Martin: How innovative. I like it!
Kearney: Hey Dolph, take a memo on your Newton: beat up Martin.
[Dolph writes "Beat up Martin" which the Newton translates as "Eat up Martha"]
Bah! [throws Newton]
Martin: [being bonked on the head with the Newton] Ow!