me   splorp.newton.connecting a stowaway keyboard

Newton MessagePad 2100 with a Stowaway Keyboard

The original goal of this project was to be able to use that funky piece of industrial design called the Stowaway keyboard with my Newton MessagePad 2100. The naysayers blathered on about how the Stowaway was for Palms and Pocket PC devices only. So what? The following page contains information and news pertaining to this project, including technical references, schematics, correspondence and applicable downloads.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

The official Stowaway keyboard compatibility list.

I'm not sure why I haven't posted this information before. It's been a recurring question via email and on the NewtonTalk mailing list for years. Without further adieu, here is the official list of Stowaway style keyboards that are known to be electrically compatible with a Newton serial port and the current Stowaway driver.
  • Stowaway Keyboard for Palm m100 (Think Outside Part No. P10713U)
  • Stowaway Keyboard for Palm III/VII (Think Outside Part No. P170-1101)
  • Palm Portable Keyboard m100/III/VII (Palm Part No. PCS-PDA-2112)
If anyone has additional information regarding other model keyboard, let me know.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Thursday, June 15, 2006 | Comments (4)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

You oughta be in pictures.

Two years after fashioning my own Stowaway keyboard adapter from a battered Palm III and a salvaged serial cable, I have finally posted more detailed images of the process. A series of photographs can be found in my Flickr account, filed under the stowaway tag. You can also view full-sized images by clicking on the following thumbnailz. One nice thing about Flickr is that you can leave comments and sticky notes on the images themselves. See the last image on the right for an example of the image notes. Knock yourself out.
Palm III Keyboard Adapter Palm III Keyboard Adapter Palm III Keyboard Adapter Palm III Keyboard Adapter Stowaway Keyboard Equipped Newton

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Wednesday, March 02, 2005 | Comments (0)

The do it yourself adapter.

Fellow Canuck Andrew Peleikis has posted background information and a gallery of images about his homemade Stowaway keyboard adapter. Simple, clean, and one hell of a lot prettier looking than my lame attempt. Make sure to check out the rest of the hacks and hardware explorations on his pillowblog site.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Wednesday, March 02, 2005 | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 01, 2003

The Newtway Stowaway keyboard connector.

Doug Parker recently announced that he is manufacturing connectors for easily attaching a Newton to a Palm III Stowaway keyboard using a standard DIN-8 serial cable. The Newtway looks very much like the infamous Newton dongle for the 2x00 series MessagePad. If you are interested in ordering a Newtway from Doug, details can be found in this post on the NewtonTalk mailing list. Nice job, Doug.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Saturday, November 01, 2003

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Stowaway driver now available.

I've been meaning to post a copy of Daniel Padilla's Stowaway keyboard driver for some time now and I guess that today's the day. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long, since Daniel gave me the green light several weeks ago. Nevermind all that, here are the links. If you manage to get a keyboard connected and running, please let me know. Heck, send me a photo of your set up as well. Everybody may as well get their fifteen minutes of fame.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Thursday, June 12, 2003 | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

The return of Think Outside.

I just thought I'd point out this article over at talking about Think Outside's return to the marketplace with a new, smaller keyboard - the Stowaway XT. It's not likely that this version of the Stowaway will be Newton compatible any time soon, but it's certainly nice to dream.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Connection diagram update.

Kind reader Michael Blazer noticed that the pin numbers were off by one in the serial pin mapping chart, so I have posted an updated version of the Stowaway to Newton connection diagram to correct this.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Sunday, April 27, 2003 | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Stowaway to Newton connection diagram.

Based on the original sketch that Daniel Padilla produced when he first released the Stowaway driver, I've created a slightly more precise diagram documenting the connections between the Stowaway keyboard and the Newton serial port. Keep in mind that this information only applies to the version of the Stowaway specifically designed for the Palm III series of devices when used in conjunction with the standard 8-pin Mini-Din serial port. I will be adding a section to the document regarding the equivalent pinouts for the Newton Interconnect port at a later date. This diagram has been added to the documentation section as well.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Saturday, April 26, 2003 | Comments (0)

Monday, February 24, 2003

Related documentation updates.

After converting this page into its new weblog format, I went through the related documentation links and updated a few that were broken. Specifically, the links to both Nick Müller's Inner Workings of the Newton Keyboard and Patrick Basten's Building a Serial Cable for the Visor documents now point to the Internet Archive since the original sites have disappeared. I also added a link to the latest Handspring Development Tools Guide should anyone care to try connecting the Visor-compatible version of the Stowaway to their Newton.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Monday, February 24, 2003 | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 23, 2003

The Stowaway finally gets connected.

Three and a half years ago, I posted a little blurb in my weblog about hacking my Newton to use a Stowaway keyboard. I ended that particular post with an encouraging "stay tuned for more..." Well, if any of you were around when I first mentioned this project, let me thank you personally for staying tuned all this time. As of today, I'm finally using a Stowaway to enter data into my Newton. All it took was a disused Palm III, a length of old serial cable, an alpha release driver from the amazing Daniel Padilla, and about 36 more months than I had originally anticipated. Yes, the physical connection still needs to be finessed, the Palm case is just plain ugly, and the driver doesn't support the full set of character modifiers or function keys. But damn it, I'm typing on an actual Stowaway portable keyboard - something with enough inherent design aesthetic and technical chutzpah to deserve being connected to my MessagePad. It's a thing of beauty, even if the wiring looks like a big pile of spaghetti.
Here's what the current mess looks like:
Stowaway portable keyboard connected to a Newton MessagePad 2100.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Sunday, February 23, 2003 | Comments (0)

Monday, February 17, 2003

Daniel Padilla gets things cooking again.

At long last, things are finally happening again, and not because of me. The programmatically immense Daniel Padilla has been hacking around with various keyboards and has managed to not only document the pinout between a Stowaway and the Newton serial port, but he has also started writing a driver. More information can be found by reading his Newton Dose weblog.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Monday, February 17, 2003 | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 02, 2002

The latest Handspring Development Kit information.

No real news yet, kids. I'm still really short on time. However, I noticed that several of the reference links on this page were broken, mainly because of restructured sites. I have updated as many of them as possible, and added a new link to the latest Handspring Development Kit information. Enjoy.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Thursday, May 02, 2002 | Comments (0)

Friday, October 26, 2001

It's a small world.

I just recieved this interesting note from Phil Baker, one of the fine folks at ThinkOutside, developers of the Stowaway keyboard.
"I came across your interesting webpage about getting the Stowaway to work with the Newton. I thought you might like to know that the project engineer on the Newton 2000 is the vp engineering for the Stowaway."
What a small world. I let him know that I am still actively developing the connector and driver for the Stowaway to connect up to the Newton, and would be happy to keep them apprised of the progress. In other news, I purchased a second Stowaway a couple of weeks ago, specifically for this project. This one is built for the Palm III series handhelds, so the series signals are more compatible with the Newton than the keyboard I bought with my Handspring Visor.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Friday, October 26, 2001 | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

New version of the Stowaway developers kit posted.

Think Outside, the developers of the Stowaway keyboard just posted a new version of the Developers Kit (log in required) which includes additional information regarding pinouts, keyboard detection, and character mapping. Based on what I've read so far, it looks like it's going to be easier to work with a Palm-compatible Stowaway than a Handspring-compatible one like I already have at my disposal. The Palm keyboard uses RS232 level versus TTL level serial signals, so I won't have to run the signal through a converter, and there is a much simpler, single pin connection for detecting a keyboard connection. I guess it's off to the store to find another cheap Stowaway. I've posted the revised Stowaway Hardware & Electronic Reference below.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Tuesday, June 12, 2001 | Comments (0)

Friday, March 16, 2001

Newton Developer Bulletin Board discussion topic.

There is now a discussion topic covering the Newton Stowaway Keyboard Project on the Newton Developer Bulletin Board (currently offline), recently launched by Ken Whitcomb. Now that I've discovered it, I guess I should be using it. Be sure to check out the other topics of discussion as well.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Friday, March 16, 2001 | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 25, 2001

The Stowaway developer program.

Thanks again to Gopi Flaherty, who pointed out that full hardware and software documentation, as well as driver source code, for the Stowaway keyboard is available as part of the developer program on the Think Outside web site. Now, why didn't I think of that?

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Sunday, February 25, 2001 | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 24, 2001

Gopi Flaherty joins the fray.

When it rains, it pours. More stuff is happening regarding the Stowaway project. In fact, what should appear in my mailbox today? A message from Gopi Flaherty, the author of NewtKey keyboard driver. It seems that he has caught the Stowaway bug as well. Read on:
"I just acquired myself a Palm V Stowaway keyboard, and will be actively working to get it on my Newton. Some relevant information that you may want to put on your page is on Ralf Ackermann's site."
"The best reference, however, is at Think Outside, the makers. They have all information needed in terms of electrical and software specs. That is to say, they have a 15 page document that will probably result in a keyboard driver this weekend."
Personally, I can't wait to see what he cooks up. The only issue is that the Palm version of the Stowaway uses RS-232 level serial, whereas the Visor version uses TTL level signals as noted below. The Visor keyboard that I have will need some sort of additional signal level conversion in order to communicate correctly.

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Saturday, February 24, 2001 | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 14, 2001

Keyboard scancodes, protocol and TTL vs serial.

After a long delay I have finally got a bit more information regarding the Stowaway keyboard project. Fellow Canadian and avid Newton user, Victor Rehorst kindly forwarded this tidbit:
"Playing with my Visor-using friend's Visor in class today (I need some more games for my 2100), I noticed that he had some app that looks like a terminal emulator. He proceeded to show me how he can plug it into his Stowaway keyboard and decipher the keyboard protocol (which he was going to do for some project or another). I remembered your idea and told him about it, and he promised me that when he got around to figuring the whole thing out he'd send me the specs."
The very next day Victor's friend, Colin Peart, came through on his promise and sent me the following:
"Pass it along to that friend of yours. I hope it's helpful. I was planning on doing it so I could write my own drivers anyways."
"I think the init sequence it sends is just so when the Visor is turned on, the keyboard system hook will power up the com port and if it receives that sequence, it keeps listening for key presses, else it shuts down the port to save power."
"I don't know if these scan codes are the same for the Palm versions of the keyboard, but I suspect they will be. It is clearly using a standard row/column matrix (albeit warped a little because each section of the keyboard is in a separate place, and they have to be connected) and dumping it on a serial port. I bet it's a standard chip, because I think the PC keyboard sends the same "hello" code on power on."
Along with the Stowaway Keyboard Protocol, Colin also sent me this additional information:
"Through Victor, I sent you the scancodes/protocol information for the Stowaway keyboard. I just wanted to share some other information I have figured out since them, through the Visor developer docs linked on your site. This keyboard does not use the remote UI interface, just a straight forward serial protocol, hence the kbd line would not be tied low on the keyboard. Instead the TXD line is tied high to feed voltage to the keyboard (0.3 A, at 3V max acc. to the developer specs), and the keyboard responds with nice simple serial data."
"One thing to note, however, is that the serial port on the Visor itself operates at TTL levels, so if the Newton connector doesn't offer TTL levels, then you will have to drive the output from the keyboard to RS232 or 422 before feeding it to the newton. Similarly, it will need a power supply."
"Do you have a copy of the FreeKey hack anywhere? The site appears to have dried up at uwaterloo, and I can't find it anywhere. I don't like the drivers that come with the keyboard, and if I can use a hack instead of writing my own driver... At any rate good luck getting the two talking."

Posted by Grant Hutchinson Wednesday, February 14, 2001 | Comments (1)


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