November 23, 1992: The First Smart Phone, the IBM Simon Personal Communicator, is Introduced

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A Brief History

On November 23, 1992, society took another giant step forward with the introduction of the IBM Simon Personal Communicator, the world’s first “smart phone.”   In 1994 and 1995, IBM sold 50,000 of these handheld mobile devices that combined a touchscreen cellular phone with a personal digital assistant (PDA).

Digging Deeper

Are you too young to remember a time without cell phones?  If you are, then this will not seem like such a big deal, but in reality, the first smart phone was an enormous leap toward what is so common today that it is taken for granted. 

Like many so-called “American” products, the Simon was manufactured for IBM by an Asian country, in this case Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan.  The phones featured a 4.5-inch by 1.4-inch liquid crystal display (LCD) screen and came with a charging base, rechargeable batteries and a fitted leather case.  Adapters were also available so that the Simon could be connected to a personal computer or to landline telephone systems.   The landline adapter was especially important as cellular coverage back then was nothing like the blanket coverage of today, and air time was quite expensive.

So, how much did it cost?  Only $899 if you also bought a 2-year contract with BellSouth Cellular or $1,099 if you chose not to have a contract.  Later the price went down as low as $599.  BellSouth was the cellular carrier for the system, and it was BellSouth that came up with the name “Simon.”  IBM had originally called it “Angler.”

History and Headlines Note: The term “Smart Phone” did not originate with the Simon, but appeared later in 1995 as a description of AT&T’s Phonewriter Communicator.  By 1997, this designation became more widely used.  For more on cell phones, please also see the History and Headlines articles: “Apple Introduces the iPhone;” “10 Stupid Things Done With Cell Phones;” and “First American Cell Phone Network Opens in Chicago.”

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Historical Evidence

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About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.