Archive for August 3, 2018

Friday, August 3, 2018

25 Years Ago, Apple Introduced the Newton

Chris Espinosa:

25 years ago today, at MacWorld Expo in Boston, Apple announced the first Newton MessagePad.

Stephen Hackett:

I’ve rounded up some links to mark the occasion[…]

Leaving NeXT for General Magic

Chris MacAskill:

And yet, this little company with the world’s coolest name and logo, had the most compelling vision I had ever heard: a little battery-powered device that let you write electronic postcards that float up to what they called the cloud, and from there to a friend’s device. I have wondered 1,000 times how that call changed my world when I said yes.


Unlike the first iPhone, we had applications and AT&T was building a marketplace on their network. My favorite was maps from StreetLight that gave you turn-by-turn directions.


When it became clear we had a brilliant vision 10 years before it was technically possible, General Magic came to an excruciating end. Tony went on to build the iPhone, Andy Rubin built Android, Pierre Omidyar built eBay, Megan Smith became VP of Google and then America’s CTO, Kevin Lynch built apple Watch…I could keep going.

Previously: The Secret Call to Andy Grove That May Have Helped Apple Buy NeXT.

Update (2018-08-07): Jack Wellborn:

I am not arguing that the Macintosh, NeXT, and the Newton weren’t without their flaws, or that even these quotes are inaccurate, but rather that we all know about these products because they did ship and were used enough to have their flaws made widely known. People bought and used Macintoshes. They bought and used Newtons. They even bought and used NeXT workstations. You can’t criticize or even debate General Magic on the merits of their products, because they didn’t ship anything in large enough numbers for anyone to care about let alone criticize.

You want me to know how great General Magic was? Great, me too! I want to know all the crazy ideas, all the awesome people involved, how fun it was to be there, why it didn’t work out, and where these ideas ultimately ended up.

Paid Amazon Reviews

Ryan Kailath (via Hacker News):

Travis rues the experience, and the stellar reviews that led him to purchase the faulty lock in the first place. He didn’t realize it at the time, he says, but he’s now certain that those glowing reviews were paid for. And that many of the people who gave the trigger lock excellent reviews may never have opened the package in the first place.

Travis is certain of this because he himself is now a prolific paid reviewer. He writes Amazon reviews for money, and he commissions others to do the same — for a company that approached him online.

Update (2018-08-06): Ashley Bischoff:

Pro tip: Sites like and can help suss out whether the reviews for a given product on Amazon are fake. 💫

Why the New V8 Is So Damn Fast

Thorsten Lorenz (via Hacker News):

In the past the V8 team focused on the performance of optimized code and somewhat neglected that of interpreted bytecode; this resulted in steep performance cliffs, which made runtime characteristics of an application very unpredictable overall. An application could be running perfectly fine until something in the code tripped up Crankshaft, causing it to deoptimize and resulting in a huge performance degradation - in some cases, sections would execute 100x slower. To avoid falling off the cliff, developers learned how to make the optimizing compiler happy by writing Crankshaft Script.

However, it was shown that for most web pages the optimizing compiler isn't as important as is the interpreter, as code needs to run fast quickly. There is no time to warm up your code and since speculative optimizations aren't cheap, the optimizing compiler even hurt performance in some cases.

The solution was to improve the baseline performance of interpreter bytecode. This is achieved by passing the bytecode through inline-optimization stages as it is generated, resulting in highly optimized and small interpreter code which can execute the instructions and interact with rest of V8 VM in a low overhead manner.