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Newton MP2x00 Display Upgrade

This web page is maintained to help answer questions about the MP2x00 Display Upgrade.

Display Upgrade FAQ

Project Background

Consider the following points:
  1. Your MP2x00 backlight will become increasingly dim as your MessagePad ages. The more you use it the more it degrades.
  2. No matter how careful you are, your touchscreen will begin to show scratches and marks as your MessagePad ages.
  3. One word: Jaggies! - often attributed to touchscreen problems.
  4. Screen protector sheets (Write Rights!, etc) help preserve your PDA, but they can make it more difficult to read what's displayed. They can also be difficult to apply.
  5. Since Apple designed the touchscreen for the MP2x00 back in 1996, new technology has made recent devices (like the Fujitsu Stylistic 3500, and Hitachi HPW-600ET, and other large-format PDAs) easier on the eyes. Better contrast means less eye strain.
  6. Besides the battery, the touchscreen and backlight are the most likely items to show wear from constant use - considering that many MP2x00 owners have had their systems for close to five (!) years. (I can't testify to the life of the internal Flash memory of the Newton, but I'm pretty sure that these parts do > 100k write erase cycles which translates to a lot of years of use.)
  7. Pocket PC and Palm users end up spending $200 and more on new PDAs every couple of years to keep up with the latest hardware changes. Would Newton MP2x00 users be willing to spend this kind of money for an upgrade and refurbishment of their existing units?
  8. Right now there is only one way to replace a damaged touchscreen with a new one: Apple Repair. They use the same old-tech touchscreens that shipped on the original MP2000 almost 5 years ago.
I've been using one MP2x00 since 1997 and over time the touchscreen has acquired several light scratches and one pock-mark delivered by a stray dongle. The idea of a replacement TS that improves the usability of the Newton was very appealing to me.

How is the new TS (touchscreen) better than the Apple original TS?

I'm using a new TS process called FG or "film on glass" (one layer of each) The old TS used FFG (two plastic and one glass layer). Using only one layer of plastic lets more light go through. This improves the "transmissivity" of the Newton screen. Newton's are primarily reflective devices, lit by ambient light sources, so transmissivity is very important to viewability and useability.

Dynapro has a good web-site on the topic of 4 wire touchscreens. Check out the differences between Dynaclear-FG and Dynaclear-PL here. I'm not using Dynapro, but the touchscreen technology is the same.

Why would I want to replace both the TS and Backlight?

If you are going to open up your Newton to the extent necessary to replace one or the other of these components, it makes sense to install both. More specifically, replacing the TS is not much less expensive than replacing the TS and backlight.

How much trouble is it to do the upgrade myself?

You can look at David Humphery's Backlight Project Page to get an idea of what is involved. My instructions will be a little different since David didn't replace his touchscreen. However, the assembly/disassembly will be similar.

What kind of soldering is required?

The backlight is the only part of the project that will require soldering. Since you'll only need to solder two wires to tabs on the backlight, I don't think that much expertise is required. It's really pretty simple soldering.

Can I buy the backlight by itself?

This may be made available at a later date, but not now. I recommend buying the full kit since it improves the overall usability of the Newton.

Why does the "white" touchsceen look pink?

EL backlights use phosphors to make light. In order to make white, a dye is added to the phosphor mix. The dye glows with a light that adds to the phosphor colors to make white. It just happens that the dye looks green when it isn't powered up.

How can I get one?

Go to the Order page.

Do you know of any technicians that would do the upgrade for me?

A list of technicians is on the order page.

What colors are available?

White will be the first color that I'll make available. Others may follow, depending on demand.

Would it be possible to offer a replacement LCD module for the Newton?

Possible and practical are different things when talking about the MP2x00 LCD. Apple had it custom made for the Messagepad so it does not follow any industry standards as far as size and format. Could it be improved? Yes, but it would probably be with optical films; I'm looking into offering this in the future. I've already confimed that the back reflector can be removed and replaced.

As far as manufacturing a replacement, I would guess that the engineering work required to re-tool the Messagepad guts to fit a standard display would be a little less than the cost of redesigning a new LCD module. It would be up to an individual to decide if it was a smart economic investment to make.

Why are you doing a project like this?

  • I have a few annoying scratches on my MP2 k screen -- and Ebay replacements have always had their own scratches and dents.
  • The screen quality can only get worse at this point, unless I send my Newton to Apple Service.
  • I'm in a position to create a touchscreen replacement and see this as an opportunity to contribute to the Newton Community.
  • Although there are a couple of people offering backlight replacements as a service there doesn't appear to be anybody selling EL backlights manufactured as a MP2K replacement.
  • I'm also in a position to do something about the backlight too!
  • I'm a little crazy. ;-)

Who's going to manufacture the replacement parts?

The backlights and touchscreens made in the US.

last update: 2/13/03

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