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The Simon Personal Communicator ( 1994) and (right) Jeremy Northam using it in the film "The Net" 1995
 
Smartphone is 20 years old

August 16 2014: The smartphone is 20 years old today. It was  called the Simon Personal Communicator  and it was designed by IBM, made by Mitsubishi and launched on August 16 1994 -- a 23 cm long contraption that weighed half a kilogram and cost $899..

The Simon was a combo of phone and personal digital assistant -- one could  make and receive  voice  calls as well as  fax messages and  let users  take notes, draw pictures and maintain a calendar. And it was a flop -- too heavy, too pricey and selling around 50,000 units in the six months it was alive.  There was no Internet so it was too costly to operate and IBM was in bad shape in 1994 to sustain the product till it could take off. It was a product ahead of its time, people did not even recognize that this was a 'smart' phone: The word ‘smartphone’ was not used   till 2000, when Ericsson launched the R380 – the first  phone  to use  a  Symbian mobile operating system.

The Simon had a brief window of fame: it featured in the 1995 film, The Net, starring Sandra Bullock.  The villain played by Jeremy Northam  uses a Simon phone to   send messages and track her.



Footnote: The first mobile phone had come much earlier  on April  3 1973 when Motorola  executive Martin Cooper made the firts cellular call from a hand geld device weighing 1 kg.





    


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