Amid little apparent fanfare, Apple released its free CompuServe Mail Software for Newton 2.0 client last week. This software has been anticipated since Apple announced plans to discontinue eWorld (see TidBITS-318), resulting in many disgruntled Newton MessagePad users who had relied on eWorld for Newton email connectivity.
CompuServe Mail Software for Newton 2.0 can be considered a replacement for the eWorld mail software built into the Newton OS 2.0 ROMs. As distributed by Apple, the software weighs in at a little over 700K and consists of two functional files: the CISmail Newton package itself and documentation in Adobe Acrobat format.
The CISmail package installs like any other Newton software package. Using the Newton Backup Utility included with the MessagePad, choose the Install Package icon to load the CIS mail client into your PDA. On installation it leaves a 97K icon, which resembles a cube, in the Extensions folder of the Extras Drawer. It also adds CompuServe mailing functionality to your MessagePad: wherever a choice for eWorld appears on a menu, you'll now also see a choice for CompuServe, and the CompuServe client's functions are completely integrated into the Newton operating system.
Functionally, CISmail operates much like the eWorld mail software it replaces, though with a few striking omissions. Operating through eWorld, you could send "ink text," sketches, and software packages across the Internet, at least to other Newton 2.0 users. Unfortunately, CISmail doesn't permit this; instead, you're restricted to text-based notes and items from the Names file, Datebook, and Calls applications. Fortunately, though, the client works as advertised. Using a Megahertz 14.4 CruiseCard PC modem, I have successfully sent and received multiple email messages using my MessagePad through my CompuServe account.
What happens if you don't have a CompuServe account? Catamount software offers Aloha 2.2.4, which enables AOL users to exchange mail between their MessagePads and the Internet through the AOL online service. Version 1.1 of Aloha also works with MessagePads that can't run Newton OS 2.0, although both versions are a little pricey at $50.
Though the CompuServe Mail Software for Newton 2.0 is an important package for the functionality of the MessagePad system, I can't help but see it as merely regaining ground that had been lost by Apple. Years after the MessagePad's introduction, the dream of having it function as a portable communications device is still largely unrealized, and CISmail does little to advance that vision. However, if you travel a good deal and previously used eWorld to maintain communications with people via your MessagePad, this client might be your most cost effective solution for the foreseeable future.
If you can't get to the software online, you can acquire a copy of CompuServe Mail Software for Newton 2.0 by calling the Apple Assistance Fulfillment Center at 800/211-1537.