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Beware the Newtapocalypse, a 2010 bug for the Newton MessagePad


We made it through Y2K and we appear to be surviving Twitpocalypse, but will Apple Newton MessagePad fans make through the Newtapocalypse?

Apple's ill-fated and technologically advanced personal digital assistant was hot stuff in the 1990s until it was axed in February of 1998. There are still a good number of Newton MessagePad fans who not only use their devices every day, but are also working together on hardware and software updates to their units to bring them into the 21st Century.

The Newtapocalypse occurs next year at 6:48:31 PM on January 5th, 2010. While a majority of the functions of the MessagePad are not affected by the impending doom, calendar functions are. Here's a description of the problem from

The overflow happens in all NewtonScript functions which use seconds as the resolution. In contrast to the 32 bit unsigned integer used by the C++ functions, NewtonScript integers are only 30 bits wide. While the C++ functions can handle times from 1904 until 2040 without an overflow, the NewtonScript functions had to be designed with a smaller range of applicable times due to the limited precision.

The seconds-based functions are implemented by taking the value of the real-time clock, subtracting the offset to January 1st 1993, and converting the results to a NewtonScript integer. This limited range causes an overflow on Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 6:48:31 PM.

This is the list of affected functions:

    • SetSysAlarm
    • TimeInSeconds
    • TimeToTimeInSeconds
    • TimeInSecondsToTime
Got that? John Sculley and company were probably hoping that by now you'd be using your Knowledge Navigator instead of a Newton MessagePad, and 2010 seemed far, far away. For anyone who wants to use calendar alarm functions on a Newton OS 2.1 devices after January 5th of next year, there's a fix that is being tested.

Now you'll be able to sleep better at night, won't you?

Update: I should change the title of this post to "Don't fear the reaper", since several commenters have pointed out that the update was released three weeks ago. The web page originally cited still says that "A solution is under testing". Frankly, considering the caveats listed on the update page, I think it would be a much better idea just to get an iPhone, guys!

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