When Apple first released its Newton personal digital assistant (PDA) in 1993, the product was meant to kick off a revolution in handheld tech devices. The Newton featured an innovative handwriting feature where users wrote on the device's screen with a stylus pen and the Newton would translate the handwriting into digital text. Apple's marketing boasted that the Newton could take notes as easily as "a piece of paper."
The only problem was that the handwriting recognition feature did not work as well as Apple had hoped, too often resulting in an indecipherable jumble of words. The Newton became the subject of widespread pop culture mockery, including in the "Doonesbury" comic strip and a reference on Fox's "The Simpsons."
Apple's then CEO, John Sculley (Jobs had been pushed out of the company in 1985), reportedly expected to sell 1 million Newtons in the first year, but instead the company sold only 50,000 in the first three months and then stopped touting the product's sales figures. Jobs officially killed the Newton shortly after he returned to Apple in 1997. Jobs later dissed the Newton to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, mocking the idea that the device used a stylus when people should be able to just use their fingers.
"By shutting it down, I freed up some good engineers who could work on new mobile devices," Jobs told Isaacson for his 2011 biography. "And eventually we got it right when we moved on to iPhones and the iPad."