Simon, the original smartphone, turns 20 25/08/2014
Never judge a phone by its cover? The Simon chunky, black box was the world's first 'smartphone'.
Simon, the original smartphone, turns 20

Do you remember the type of phone you had twenty years ago? Chances are it was a heavy, brick-like contraption with a sticky-out aerial and a tiny screen. If you were lucky, you might have had a flip phone

But way back in the early days of mobile phone ownership, the first smartphone had already been created. His name was Simon.

The IBM Simon Personal Communicator celebrated its twentieth anniversary this month. It was launched on 16 August 1994, and at the time it was the very latest in technology. It had an LCD touchscreen, and unique software capabilities allowed users to send and receive emails and text messages for the first time. It also featured an interactive calendar, along with note-taking facilities, and it could be linked up to a fax machine (remember those?) for those extra-urgent messages. 

However, Simon looked nothing like the smartphones we carry around with us today. He weighed half a kilo and measured in at 20cm long. He came in one colour - black – and had a battery life of approximately one hour. Only 50,000 models were sold to customers in the United States, with each person paying USD$899 (AUS$963) for the privilege of owning this little piece of history. 

Given that there were no mobile networks set up in the United States at that time, Simon can probably also lay claim to being one of the world’s first unlocked mobile phones. 

However, if you were to pick one up today, you’d probably struggle to make a call on it. For a start, you’d need an RJ11 adaptor cable to hook the mobile phone up to a POTS land line if you wanted to have a chat with someone. If you wanted to send an email, you’d need to find an RS232 cable to link it up with your computer. Of course, there are easier, cheaper and cable-free ways to get hold of an unlocked phone nowadays. 

Not that you can actually buy the Simon anymore. The phone was discontinued in February 1995, and can now been seen only in London’s Science Museum, where it takes pride of place in the newly minted Information Age gallery.

Retro fans can create the look of the Simon with a chunky black smartphone case. Just delete all your apps except your notepad and calendar, and block your cellular connection so it runs extra slowly, for that true 1994 experience.

Whether you are looking for retro or modern mobile phone accessories, Sprout accessories online is your one stop shop for all your accessory needs. Providing fun, innovative and funky products for your favourite Apple, Samsung and HTC devices as well as other well-known brands.

Get to know our team and find out what we do and how we can cater for all modern brands. Sorry, no Simons…

IBM Simon Personal Communicator.png
"IBM Simon Personal Communicator" by Bcos47 - Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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