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IBM Simon Turns 20

The IBM Simon is considered by many to be the first smartphone, although there are some who go against this idea. Assuming that it is, however, then the device which was released on November 23, 1992 would be already twenty years old. IBM unveiled the device during the COMDEX computer and technology trade show held in Las Vegas, Nevada on said date.

The IBM Simon, which is known officially as the Simon Personal Communicator, is the first cellular phone to come with features of a personal digital assistant (PDA). It has capability to communicate via telephone calls, e-mail, and facsimiles. With the use of one’s finger or a stylus, one gives input via an onscreen keyboard. The Simon also featured a calendar, address book, calculator, appointment scheduler, to-do list, notepad, and world clock. With the use of a PC Connectivity kit, it can furthermore access Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel files. The smartphone drew its power from two nickel-cadmium batteries. It also had a leather covering for protection and a charging base station.

Datalight ROM-DOS was its operating system while its processor was a 16-bit, x86 CPU running at 16Mhz. It also had 1MB of memory, a 0.00228 Mbps modem, a type II PC card slot, as well as a a 9600-bps Group 3 fax modem. For its display, the device sported a 4.5 inch by 1 and ½ inch monochrome back-lit touchscreen LCD. They were available through the wireless carrier BellSouth Cellular for the price of $899, and came with a 2-year contract. Its dimensions were 200 x 64 x 38 mm and weighed 510 grams.

Compred to today’s smartphones, one may note several similarities. For one, it has a touchscreen as the main receiver of input from the user. It was also able to run third-party apps, though there was only one called DispatchIt reportedly that was available.

There were 50,000 units of the IBM Simon phone that were sold in a span of six months.

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