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20 years after the invention of first ‘smartphone’


The world’s first smartphone was IBM Simon which went on sale to the public on 16 August 1994 and which had a wide range of computing features.


At the 20th anniversary, London’s Science Museum is putting on exhibit in its new Information Age gallery.

“The Simon Wasn’t called a smartphone back then,” said curator Charlotte Connelly.

“But it had a lot of the features we see today. It had a calendar; it could take notes and send emails and messages and combined all of this with a cell phone.”

Weighing in at 500b (1.1 lb), the Simon was not exactly pocket-sized. However, Ms Connelly emphasized the design was ahead of its time.

“It looks like a grey block but it’s not as big as you’d imagine,” she said. “It had a stylus and a green LCD screen, which is similar in size to the iPhone 4. In fact, it’s not a bad looking thing.”

IBM’s pioneering product was also the first mobile phone to feature software apps and could be linked up to a fax machine. It was only available to customers in the United States, operating within a 15 state network and sold around 50,000 models.


The cell was specifically famous with members of the trade community, who pleaded a transportable phone that doubled up as a mini-computer.

However, the massive price tag and short battery life contributed to its eventual disappearance from the market around two years after its launch.

“It only had an hour’s battery, it was $899 and there was no mobile internet at the time. So it wasn’t so successful,” said Ms Connelly.

The Simon will be put on display this October as part of the Information Age exhibition – the first permanent gallery in the UK dedicated to the history of communication and information technology. Besides, this device, more than 800 objects will be on display, illustrating how far communication has come over the past 20 years.

“It does remind us of that time. I definitely enjoy getting away from things and deliberately disconnecting myself,” she said. “There’s something quite nice about that.”

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