The world IBM Simon might not be the first thing that pops up in your mind when you hear the word smartphone. The device was originally introduced as a PDA (personal digital assistant). The device was so futuristic and packed with features, it was considered a smartphone after a year of its official launch.
The IBM Simon Personal Communicator was generally known as IBM Simon, which was one of the first touch screen PDAs, designed by IBM and manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric. The device was officially launched on August 16, 1994, and was discontinued within a year.
There is a reason for this article, as the IBM Simon was first showcased at COMDEX on November 23, 1992, which makes the IBM Simon a 29 years old smartphone. However, the device was available for purchase two years after the official unveiling.
IBM Simon Features
The IBM Simon looks nothing like the modern smartphone of 2021. It looks more like a cordless landline device. However, even back in 1994, it did pack a touch screen display with an LCD panel with a tall form factor. What made the IBM Simon a smartphone is the ability to send and receive emails, faxes, and cellular pages wirelessly.
The smartphone was very expensive and came with a retail price of $1099 without any contract. If we calculate the inflation, the IBM Simon would cost around $2,166.58 in 2021. Despite a higher price, the company sold over 50,000 units of the IBM Simon.
As per the specifications, the IBM Simon was powered by a 16-bit Vadem VG320 (CMOS) SoC from NEC with 16MHz clock speed. The processor was paired with 1MB MOS RAM from Sony and Hitachi and 1MB flash memory from Intel, Hitachi, and Cirrus Logic modem chips.
Another interesting aspect of the IBM Simon is the fact that it came with an RS232 adapter cable, which allowed users to access files from their personal computers. And it also had an RJ11 adapter cable which allows making voice and data calls over POTS. It used a Datalight ROM-DOS file system with a specially designed touch screen user interface with no DOS prompt.
IBM Simon Actually Failed
The IBM Simon despite packing industry-first features was not a successful smartphone. There are a few reasons for this. One, it was very expensive and the battery only lasted for an hour of voice calls. Even though it did have features like an address book, calendar, calculator, and world clock, it did not have any internet communicator or web browser.
Can you guess how much time the 1-hour lasting battery on the IBM Simon took to charge? A whopping 14 to 16 hours. It used a user-replaceable nickel-cadmium battery, so one can carry an additional battery and replace them on the spot.
IBM did launch many PDAs after the Simon. However, post the launch of iOS and Android OS, the company stopped making both phones and personal computers. The company is currently focused on making professional solutions and services for various brands and institutions across the world.
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Story first published: Tuesday, November 23, 2021, 11:59 [IST]