The Newton MessagePad 2000-series devices had a little known internal slot intended for an integrated modem card that was never made by Apple. PCMCIA WiFi cards of this era do not support modern WPA2 encryption. This site outlines a project to build a WiFi board for this never-used internal serial slot that works with modern WiFi networks.

Friday, April 3, 2015

WiFi Board For Newton: A Success?

I'm going to call this one a success.

There is an error in the hardware flow control circuit, but that's due to an error in the N2 Platform documentation.  I'll take responsibility because I should have more thoroughly prototyped (which I thought I had, but oh well)  I'm still planning on hacking an inverter onto the board to fix the issue.

Even so. I'm chalking this one up as a success.

A few last details:

The Antenna

I found a really small antenna.  I think its really for bluetooth devices, but it seems to work fine.  It is so small, I was able to tuck it in a small gap between the power connector and the interconnect port.

WiReach Configuration

You need to send a few specific commands to configure the WiReach module.  The most important is AT+iWANS=1  which tells the WiReach that the WiFi network is the WAN subnet.  Also you need to configure a username and password (which matches the PPP configuration on the Newton.)  AT+iRAU and AT+RAP are the commands you use to set the username and password.  And of course you'll need to connect to your network using:
AT+iWPP0=<WPA2 passphrase>
I use PT-100 to configure the module.  Then a Serial Internet configuration with a script.  The script is simple.  First, it pauses for a few seconds to give the module time to power on.  Second, it sends the at+iSPPP:0 command to start the PPP server.  Finally, it waits for the OK.

How Does it Work?

My goals when I started this were:

  • The case had to close and everything had to be fully internal.  
  • Find an antenna and antenna placement that would work without modifying the case or the shielding.
  • Enough range to reach my router from my couch...
  • Connecting my Newton to a WPA2 network.

In all, despite the flow control thing, I'm pretty happy with the end result.  The project meets my requirements.

I'm trying to decide if I want to do a v1.1 board with corrected flow control signals.