World’s First Smartphone = Apple or Android? Think again….

IPhone and IBM Simon

IPhone and IBM Simon

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.


Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist

Paul Lasewicz, IBM Corporate Archivist

For More Information:

2 thoughts on “World’s First Smartphone = Apple or Android? Think again….

  1. IBM’s involvement in cell phones goes much further back then this. I was a designer in the late 70s on a handheld device developed within the federal systems division as a special project called Wildcat. The device had a keypad and LED display and communicated using cell technology to a central transmitting location (tower in today’s terminology). Motorola eventually took over the project following a successful proof of concept. The system ended up being called the “brick” and was used by IBM service engineers as they visited customers sites and checked on parts availability, etc. The only thing it lacked at the time was voice which was deemed extraneous :-)

    • I was a young DP SE at that time, and I remember the CE’s talking about having to put info into or getting info out of their ‘Brick’,,, and it was not light weight. Thanks for the memory

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s