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12 Dec 2011

The World's First Smartphone - IBM's Simon

By Dubau Adrian

The world sure has changed a lot over the last two decades. The technological improvements transformed our lives, making it easier to communicate with each other and finding out new things with just the press of a button. Nowadays, billions of dollars revolve each year around the smartphone market, with approximately four hundred million users across the globe. But do you remember when it all started? Do you remember how it all started?

The year was 1994 when IBM came up with this slogan - ''Mobile Communications Made Simple." The slogan marks the birth of the world's first smartphone, or personal communicator as it was called in those days. The handset was designed by IBM and received the name Simon. This revolutionary device acted like a cellular phone but in the same time it much offered more than simple voice communications. Users were able to employ IBM's Simon as a wireless machine, an electronic mail device, a pager, a calendar, an address book, calculator or pen-based sketchpad. I know, this would simply qualify as a low-end smartphone these days, but in 1994 it was a pretty big deal.

Whoever interested in the handset had to pay a heavy price in order to enjoy its capabilities. No less than $899, which is a lot of money even as we speak, not to mention 17 years ago. The personal communicator was rather heavy, weighing in at more than a pound, and it had a liquid crystal display, or LCD while offering a telephone keypad as well as computer one. It was like you had a computer built inside you cellular which really made you stand out of the crowd.

When used as a cellular phone, Simon could offer all the standard cellular features, including all of today's classics - last number redial, last 10 number redial, a built in 911 emergency call button, address book audio dial and even roaming preference. On the other hand, when using Simon as a personal communicator, users found it easy to access the handset's graphical user interface, which used icons and on-line help screens making the device much more user-friendly. Obviously, it had limited storage capabilities but you had the option to increase it via a personal computer memory card slot. The same card slot allowed users to add a paging card if they wanted to receive electronic messages on both nationwide and local basis, thanks to MobileComm which was IBM's paging company. Furthermore, the slot contained an organizer feature and a calendar, which could have been updated automatically from a remote computer.

Even without the above mentioned slot card, Simon still had the capability to send and receive E-mail through most public E-mail systems. Also, using Simon, you could create faxes and memos by using pen-touch screens or even by writing them directly on the screen with the use of a stylus. The moment you sent that certain fax, you handwriting was reflected exactly as it was, without being digitized in order to look like a printed word. The technology created a huge frenzy in those times and is used constantly in the present as well, being called pen annotation. This isn't the only patented technology that Simon brought to the customers. Ever heard of predictive keyboard? Sure you have! Well, you might not have heard about it if it wasn't for Simon, the first smartphone ever to use this IBM technological marvel. Using the predictive keyboard, only a part of the keyboard was displayed on the LCD screen and the user selected a few letters, Simon predicted the next letters most likely to use. As a comparison, it was like the Siri application on   rel=nofollow []Apple's iPhone 4S; it simply was able to blow your mind. The impact it had on the people was huge, it even appeared in the popular movie ''The Net'', where it ''played'' an important role.

The IBM Simon was undoubtedly a great piece of technology; it revolutionized communications and was a pioneer for all that the smartphone industry currently means. Although it was ahead of its time, as time passed it remained nothing else than a huge, heavy and horribly expensive device, so today it's nothing more than a remainder of the past and only interests collectors.

As we said, the smartphone is now an essential part of our daily life, so if you want to know all the latest news and reviews, check out our []website.

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