Did you know: these were some of the first "smartwatches" ever

Did you know: these were some of the first "smartwatches" ever
Pop quiz: what straps to your wrist, tracks your activity, responds to voice commands, displays notifications, and even tells the time? Yup, that would be a smartwatch. Their popularity has been rising steadily over the past couple of years and it is only going to grow further now that Apple has joined the fun. Smartwatches, however, have been around, in one form or another, for longer than you might think.

You see, bright minds have been trying to augment the functionality of the humble wrist watch for decades. The first attempts at adding computational powers to an electronic watch date back to the early '80s, and while the products that came out weren't exactly as elegant as the Apple Watch, they were cool and geeky nonetheless.

Let's rewind back to 1983, which saw the release of the Seiko Data-2000 digital watch. The timepiece's killer feature was the option to store notes on its internal memory. Text of up to 2000 characters could be saved, and while this doesn't seem like much, it was sufficient for one to store important memos, his buddies' phone numbers, or maybe a list of witty pick-up lines. Text was entered using voice commands. Just kidding - you had to dock the watch into a special keyboard and then type in your memos.

The Seiko RC-1000 did not require such a keyboard. Released in 1984, it was advanced enough to interface with a computer - one could simply type their notes on, let's say, an Apple II computer or an IBM PC, and then transfer them onto the timepiece over a wired connection.

Ten years later, the Timex Datalink came along. This nerdy watch was co-developed with Microsoft and was intended to be an alternative to PDAs. As such, it could store information for up to 150 contacts, the data being downloaded from a computer.

The IBM WatchPad, which was released in 2001, was a gazillion times more advanced than any of the watches mentioned so far. It featured a small 320x240-pixel display, a 74MHz processor, 8MB of RAM, and ran on Linux, which meant that it could actually have software developed for it. On top of that, the gadget was Bluetooth-enabled, featured a fingerprint scanner for added security, and even had a crown similar to that of the Apple Watch.

In 2004, Microsoft came along with a geeky watch of its own. It was known as the SPOT Watch and was quite advanced for its time. The wearable could connect wirelessly to the MSN Direct Network and receive up-to-date information on weather forecasts, news, stock updates, and more. But the SPOT had its flaws, one of which was its high price, so in a few years, the whole product line was scrapped.

So yeah, these were the granddaddies and great-granddaddies of today's smartwatches. Clearly, they didn't revolutionize the mobile industry, perhaps because they were somewhat ahead of their time, because they were limited in terms of functionality, and because they weren't exactly tailored for the needs of the average consumer. But they did pave the way for modern smartwatches to emerge and hit the mainstream. Now excuse us while we go out for a jog with our Apple Watch playing tunes and measuring our heart rate.


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