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  • What's new in my pocket computers pages?

    Friday, October 15th : Ricoh RDC i-700 received
    Device securised this morning! No page for it yet; will be one some day.

    Wednesday, September 15th : Sharp MI-10 added
    Created a page for the Sharp MI-10 i've received.

    Friday, July 23rd : new homepage, new machines listed
    My collection reached 49 units yesterday as i've received 2 new watches. Added them to the list (no pages yet) and changed the homepage to a weblog format.

    This feature will soon be available

    BellSouth - IBM Simon
    PDA cellphone
    I'm sorry, but I will not reply to user manual requests or to dealer location inquiries anymore.

    Please read my FAQ page that might help you if you have any of these questions in mind.
    Feel free to contact me for any other question or comment regarding this machine!

    The first ever SmartPhone!

    Special features :
    - First born of a new breed
    - Nice user interface

    Weak points :
    - Brick-like, huge and heavy
    - Pre-internet communicator (thus very limited for today's standards)
    - No IR port

    Related machines in my collection :
    Later (but still early) smartphone :
    Sharp MCG-1
    More cellphones with built-in PDA :
    Nokia 9110 Communicator
    Nokia 9210 Communicator
    Early communication-oriented PDA :
    Sony Magic Link
    Early touch-screen PDAs :
    Apple Newton Message Pad 100
    Casio Z-7000 Zoomer

    In the beginning of the 21st century, a "smartphone" is a device the size and shape of a cellphone, sporting a large sensitive screen instead of your regular keyboard, having internet communication features, complete PDA functions, and of course, all of the usual cellphone functions.
    If "smartphones" are considered state-of-the art in cellphone technologies in 2003, the first ever device of this kind dates back 1994. Having the size and shape of a cellphone (and they were bigger than in the 2000's), the IBM Simon, distributed by BellSouth, replaces the usual telephone keyboard by a sensitive screen and integrates PIM applications and data communication features.
    Let's get back to 1994 : at that time, manufacturers are struggling to make the "communication devices" market take off. The most common approach was then to bring communication to what was then state of the art in portable technology : PDAs.
    Many products came out at that time : the EO Communicator, 2 Motorola products, the Marco and the Envoy, respectively running the Newton and the MagicCap OS; the Sony Magic Link. Most of those products were discontinued after no more than 2 years.
    Most of those products featured large displays, and a notebook oriented usability : they were basically PDAs with integrated (radio-)modems. The Simon showcases a totally different idea of what a communicating device could be : instead of integrating a modem in a PDA, it would integrate a PDA and a modem in a cellphone.
    The user interface is pretty clear and apparently pleasant to use. It is a charming exemple of a early 90's graphic interface. I see it as mac OS 1.0 in a narrow screen : B&W icons, background patterns and round-angles boxes populate the .
    Let's face it : the Simon didn't last any longer than it's competitors. Maybe all of them were ahead of their time, but most likely they were all huge, heavy, and horribly expensive, both on the purchase price side and on the communication service subscription side.

    Anyway, as the first actual "SmartPhone" in history, the Simon is a very interesting machine. As it is also quite rare, i'm very proud i own one in my collection.

    Below in the page are a few pictures comparing the Simon's size to later devices.

    Processor : custom OS : Zaurus OS???
    RAM : 1 MB ROM : 1 MB
    Graphic display : 160 x 293 Text display : variable fonts
    Display : B&W Input : Stylus

    Built-in Applications :
    Complete telephone abilities, phone directory, mail (not internet compliant), calculator, calendar, fax, note pad, file manager, sketch pad, to do list...

    Open to other applications : On PCMCIA cards (maybe also by installation in memory?)
    Ports :
    - power supply entry
    - one PCMCIA type 2 port
    - one IO connection port

    Here a sample of the competitors the Ibm Simon had to face. The Sony Magic Link is a good representative of what "communicating PDAs" looked like at the time. The Sony has a display twice the size of the Simon's. The form factor is also much more interesting on the Sony : it may not be obvious from the picture, but if both devices are tricky to operate with just one hand while carrying the machine in the other, the Sony is much more balanced due to its square shape, and can be blocked against the palm of the hand. The Simon, on the other..er..hand, has to be strongly gripped, thus providing unstable balance that will make screen operations a bit less comfortable.

    Now, let's keep in mind that, even if the Sony can be used as a phone; it will only be a handfree phone, whereas the Simon is focused on it's phone origin and usability.

    The Ibm Simon (middle) next to the Sharp MCG-1 (left) and the Nokia 9210 right). All are cellphones with integrated PDA features. The MCG-1 introduces e-mail management, and the Nokia 9210 sports a folding casing with a color screen, and a complete keyboard in the inside PDA part, and web and e-mail connection on the software side. The Sharp and the Nokia are both huge by 2003 standards, so well, the Simon is definitely out of size today.

    Blame it on the hardware : comparing screen sizes, the Simon and the Nokia 9210 are quite even; but the years separating the two machines brought the technology that made the 9210 way smaller, yet much more powerful. The 9210 screen has a better resolution, displays 4096 colors, and also offers a complete integrated keyboard. What the Simon has more can be said in few word : more weight and a bigger size.

    One more comparison : judging on the size, the Simon is obviously from the same era as the Apple Newton (left). The Simon is not as wide, but significantly thicker than the Newton. Anyway, both look like dinosaurs compared to the first Pilot from US Robotics (right - yes, that's one of the first born twins in the Palm Pilot family).