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The smartphone turned 20 years old this weekend

Posted: , by Maxwell R.

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The smartphone turned 20 years old this weekend
IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator was unveiled before the world on November 23, 1992 at COMDEX. Codenamed “Angler” at the time, this nifty device could handle phone calls, contacts, task list, “mail,” and third party apps believe it or not.

It was finally released for sale through IBM’s partnership with BellSouth (now part of AT&T) in 1994. The Simon was available for $899 ($1,400 in 2012 dollars) on a two-year agreement within BellSouth’s 15 state network. Looking at the device by today’s smartphone standards does seem whimsical, but the fundamentals are the same, candybar form factor, touch-screen and it was a bit of a battery hog too. Before the Simon was taken off the market, the price had dropped to $599 and BellSouth sold nearly 50,000 units in six months (which is about how long many modern models last today).

The Simon had 1MB of RAM, and one hour of talk time

The Simon had 1MB of RAM, and one hour of talk time

For its day though, the Simon was anything but low end, in addition to managing contacts, tasks, etc., it too sported a calculator, note pad, file manager and could even send and receive faxes (that is a method of sending text and images on a sheet of paper over a phone line for those that don't know).  There was no camera, but there was an app for that. Third party apps would be run via inserting PCMCIA cards into the bottom of the device. The display was a 4.5-inch, black and white 160x293 LCD unit which allowed for input via stylus. 1MB of RAM was available and there was the option for expanding that storage by 1MB or 1.8MB using memory cards that were around at the time.

Providing the power was a nickel-cadmium battery (it came with two), and processing that power was a 16MHz Vadem CPU. The Simon Personal Communicator was able to provide about one hour of talk time or less. That probably was not such a bad thing, since it weighed about 18 ounces and thus it would be a welcome break to put it on the charger for a little while.

We will not try to guess where the technology will take us over the next 20 years. Given how quickly technology has advanced in the past four years, never mind the past 20, we are certain that any guess we make would be wrong.  However, the first smartphone shares much with its contemporaries even at the ripe old age of 20. 

source: Red Ferret

27 Comments
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posted on 25 Nov 2012, 19:53 16

1. mercorp (Posts: 967; Member since: 28 Jan 2012)


Nice one,IBM.
what?a 4.5 inch display at that
time?....
anyway,thumbs up for all users.

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 20:35 14

9. metalpoet (unregistered)


4.5 inch display and apple JUST NOW has finally gotten the idea of making their screens 4 inches, oh wow what a genious thought Apple!

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 21:24 2

13. hwaism (Posts: 10; Member since: 11 Oct 2011)


yeah.. i got my 10 inch for my phone ad.. apple so outdated right?

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 19:57 27

2. hobble (Posts: 130; Member since: 11 Oct 2011)


I see rounded corners... Don't tell apple

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 21:15 5

12. Bernoulli (Posts: 1433; Member since: 01 Sep 2012)


No kidding man, I love how my old Walkman was round corners with candy bar style, and the Walkman line up was in place long before the iphone appeared!

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 20:00 5

3. tedkord (Posts: 4275; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)


Lies. Its only about 6 years old.

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 20:20 2

6. neutralguy (Posts: 1152; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


hahahahaha. so you mean to say that this actually is a competitor to n73? :)))

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 21:33 3

14. -box- (Posts: 3712; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)


Wow, 3 people didn't get the sarcasm?!

posted on 26 Nov 2012, 05:20

24. TheOldOne (Posts: 77; Member since: 29 Mar 2012)


actually I think they got it... just that they don't like it LOL

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 20:11 3

4. Birds (Posts: 958; Member since: 21 Nov 2011)


It surprises me how they went from making cellphones as small as possible to making the biggest screen possible...

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 20:12 5

5. blingblingthing (Posts: 419; Member since: 23 Oct 2012)


"The display was a 4.5-inch, black and white 160x293 LCD unit which allowed for input via stylus."

Input by a STYLUS? this is grounds to be added by Apple in a lawsuit guys.

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 20:22 1

8. neutralguy (Posts: 1152; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


and calling, asha 305 and so one, not a smartphone. That's cute.

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 21:35

15. -box- (Posts: 3712; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)


By your logic, we may as well call any phone that can access email or the internet a smartphone, right? Then almost all most modern phones are smartphones.

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 22:13 2

17. archeryhunter1993 (Posts: 17; Member since: 09 Dec 2011)


Basically, just about any phone that can access internet on the go is a smartphone on some level.

posted on 26 Nov 2012, 03:55

23. neutralguy (Posts: 1152; Member since: 30 Apr 2012)


@-box- YES PLEASE. The thing is, we label smartphones depending on their specifications. But the truth is, any phone as of now is a smartphone.

@archeryhunter, you got that right.

posted on 26 Nov 2012, 10:50

26. -box- (Posts: 3712; Member since: 04 Jan 2012)


Perhaps, or if we differentiate between basic phones (no email/internet, no touchscreen, no physical QWERTY keyboard, candy bar or flip style body), feature/messaging phones (touchscreens &/or QWERTY keyboards, basic internet functions but no WiFi) and smartphones (all the goodies) and understand the levels, we can keep the definitions up-to-date. Much like how more advanced options and features in cars eventually trickle down to even the basic vehicles, we don't call a new basic car with multiple airbags and CD players luxury cars, but 20 years ago that would have been reserved for the high-end luxury set..

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 21:45 1

16. Mobilephile (Posts: 66; Member since: 25 Nov 2012)


I would kill a fanboy to own this.

posted on 25 Nov 2012, 22:18 1

18. Johnnokia (Posts: 464; Member since: 27 May 2012)


The great reign of Motorola and Nokia.

posted on 26 Nov 2012, 00:23 1

19. Troysyx (Posts: 134; Member since: 30 Jul 2012)


Wait, how's is that possible? Apple didn't make a phone twenty years ago? *he says with heavy sarcasm*

posted on 26 Nov 2012, 06:46 1

25. jroc74 (Posts: 4720; Member since: 30 Dec 2010)


I see a home and back button on screen buttons. This thing was ahead of its time. Looks like IBM is another company that doesnt get enough credit in the smartphone world.

posted on 26 Nov 2012, 10:53

27. bvalde09 (Posts: 172; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)


899 Plus a two year contract? Damn There must me something wrong there with whoever put the price on Bellsouth

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