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The 7 most popular technology cults

How a tech company can shape your belief system

For many of us gadgets and the tech companies that create them are part of our whole belief system. We've identified the seven most popular tech cults, so which one do you belong to?

The Tao of Newton

Established: 1993

Gathering of the tribes: Worldwide Newton Conference

Major deity: John Sculley

Minor deities: Too many to name; many are listed in MSU's unofficial Newton Hall of Fame

Holy scripture: The Newton FAQ

The Antichrist: Steve Jobs

How is it that a thing can die and yet live on? Ponder this paradox, grasshopper, as we tell of perhaps the most slavishly devoted tech cult of all: the Apple Newton MessagePad, aka God's PDA.

Debuting to lavish hype in 1993, the Newton was arguably the beginning of the larger Apple cult and its aura of impeccable coolness. From the Newton's loins sprang most of what we think of as Apple chic today; many Newtonians draw a direct line from the original PDA to today's iPhone.

So what happened? The original Newton was bulky and expensive, with a few glitches, most famously its less-than-letter-perfect handwriting recognition.

The smaller, nimbler, cheaper PalmPilot soon dominated the market. A few months after Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he killed the device, earning the permanent enmity of the Newton faithful, who would hold up their MessagePads in silent protest during Jobs' keynote speeches.

Bowed but unbeaten, Newtonians continued to develop software as open source projects. MessagePad hackers added support for MP3s, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth; the Einstein Project created Newton OS emulators for devices like the Sharp Zaurus and Nokia 770 , as well as Apple Macs and Windows PCs. Each year the Newton faithful gather at the Worldwide Newton Conference.

Meditative rituals for the cult include "installing software, replacing backlights, endlessly discussing rumors of a new Apple tablet device, complaining that the PalmPilot stole our thunder, and correcting commoners' assumptions that non-Newton devices are true PDAs," says Grant Hutchinson, who maintains the NewtonTalk mailing list.

He says Newtonians can be spotted by the transcendental glow cast by their MessagePads' green backlights. And they live for the day the Newton will rise again - perhaps in the form of that oft-rumored tablet, the existence of which Apple steadfastly denies.

"The echo of cult-likeness might be in the wish to stop time, to deny the reality of loss," notes psychologist Mike Jolkovski.

"For a while, the Newtonians kept hope that the gizmo would rejoin the Apple product line - much as people pined for the reunion of the Beatles. But no, the Beatles aren't getting back together, the Newton is gone and will stay that way, and we are all going to die."

But, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. Wasn't it Steve Wozniak who said that?

  1. How a tech company can shape your whole belief system
  2. The way of the Palm
  3. Brotherhood of the Ruby
  4. The Ubuntu tribe
  5. The Commodorians
  6. The Order of the Lisp
  7. Monks of the Midrange
  8. The Tao of Newton

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