1990s History Blog

The first smartphone

Via ColdFusion

Recently I was watching a ColdFusion video from 2015  about “the first smartphone”. Here is a short history of Simon Personal Communicator from 1994. 

IBM and Mitsubishi 

Today, the Simon Personal Communicator can be seen as the world’s first smartphone, which featured several functions that contemporary mobile phones could not perform, such as sending emails. Its battery had around 1 hour of performance time (when the Simon was actively used and not on stand-by). 

“IBM Simon” was designed and developed by IBM and manufactured in cooperation with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation in 1994. Around 50 000 units were sold before the production ended in 1995.  

Via ColdFusion

Specifications 

Height  200 mm Operating systemDatalight ROM-DOS
Width64 mmCPU NEC V30HL
16 Mhz 
Length 38 mm Memory 1 MB PSRAM 
Mass 510 gBattery 7.5 NiCad 
Display 114 mm x 36 mm

160 × 293 pixel CGA 
Connectivity 2400 bps Hayes compatible modem 
Via TekGadg

PDA and “Angler” 

Simon was designed as a PDA, standing for the personal digital assistant. Its development had the codename “Angler” and was mainly developed by IBM employee Frank J. Canova who started working on it in 1992. Thereby, Canova and his team members at IBM became the first humans to develop a smartphone that went into the sale. Later on, in 1997, Canova joined Palm Inc company famous for its Palm PDA products. 

Via Wikipedia.

The Simon had its first “public debut” at Wireless World Conference in November 1993. The original plans were to have the Simon ready for sales on the US-market in May 1994, but due to different problems, the sale started in August 1994. Simon was sold at the price of 899 US dollars which was by contemporary economic standards, and consumer analysis sees as a high and expensive price. The term smartphone was started being used in 1995 when the production of Simon was ended. 

January 1994 issue of Telecommunications
Via history-computer.com

Touchscreen and apps 

IBM Simon became one of the first phones with a touchscreen and with several applications. Among Simon’s features were: 

Via Microsoft Buxton Collection
  • Address Book
  • Calculator
  • Calendar
  • Fax
  • Filer
  • Mail
  • Note Pad
  • Sketch Pad
  • Time
  • To Do

One feature that was more appreciated was sending an email, a function that in 1995 was still not “mainstream” and used by a more limited number of individuals as public administrators, university staff and computer company personnel in America and Asia.  Another more uncommon application for the contemporary time was the “PredictaKey” keyboard that according to the user manual, “always shows the six most-likely letters that you need, depending on the characters you’ve just typed”. More information about the user manual can be found here

From the instruction manual

The first smartphone

Today, due to its design and functions, the IBM Simon Personal Communicator can be seen as the first smartphone in the world. For more information, click on the submitted links or visit the IBM company for more information. 

Via Microsoft Buxton Collection

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