Twenty years ago, a small team of IBM engineers from the IBM PC company’s advanced technology group in Boca Raton was assembled to create a new mobile device that combined a computer with a cell phone. It was called a personal communicator – we know it today as a smart phone. The team was given a very short deadline – less than four months. A true skunkworks project, they were freed from IBM’s normal product development processes. Even so, they were hard-pressed to meet the deadline, working 80 hours weeks. Somehow they made it, and the prototype debuted at Comdex that fall. The operational prototype, innovatively called the IBM Personal Communicator, was large and heavy – a first iteration of a new technology that embodied many technical compromises. But it worked, and was the hit of the show. Industry representatives lined up three deep to see it, and it made the front page of the next morning’s USA Today Money Section. The enthusiastic reception convinced IBM to turn the device into a product, which was marketed by Bell South in 1993 as the IBM Simon – the world’s first smart phone.
The December 2012 theme for The Greater IBM Connection is ‘corporate history’, and Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist, will be sharing with us some of the highlights from IBM’s history.
For More Information:
- (Businessweek) Before IPhone and Android Came Simon, the First Smartphone
- (Android Authority) IBM Simon: World’s First Smartphone is now 20 Years Old
- (Into Mobile via USA Today) The Smartphone Turns 20: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby