Wristy Business: The evolution of iWatch

Wristy Business: The evolution of iWatch

Summary: From calculator watches, to smart watches, to intelligent wristbands, the wrist computer has had a storied history.


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  • Pulsar Calculator Watch (1972)

    Hamilton Pulsar was a luxury watch manufacturer that was known for its pioneering work in creating the world's first truly digital timepiece in 1970, and was featured in the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die". In 1975 the company introduced the first fully functional calculator watch.

  • Casio Databank (1980s-current)

    In the 1980s, Japanese timepeice manufacturer CASIO introduced the Databank, a LCD watch line that continues to be manufactured to this day. Databanks have had many configurations over the years, including calculator watches, but primarily they have been used for limited PDA-type of functions (Appointments, Contact, Calendar) that we see as common features in today's smartphones.

  • Microsoft SPOT Watch (2000's)

    In the Mid-2000's Microsoft experimented with a 1-way FM broacast radio data service known as MSN Direct

    Among the devices to use this service were SPOT watches which were made by various manufacturers. The data broadcast by MSN Direct included localized weather service, news, and traffic reports.

    Microsoft shut down MSN Direct in January of 2012.

Topics: Mobile OS, Smartphones, After Hours


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Surprised you missed the Garmin Forerunner Range.

    Ok single focus units but pretty high tech all the same!
  • Where's the Timex Datalink/Beepwear?

    I really liked mine.

    You updated info on the watch by holding it up to your screen, which was super-cool. News came via the pager network. Think it was like $17 per year.

    Accd to the Wikipedia page, it's the "It is the first watch capable of downloading information from a computer." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timex_Datalink)
  • How about the Fossil Abacus running Palm OS?

  • Wrist grunge

    After a quarter century of both emotional and physical attachment to the Casio Data Bank, which I had to replace every few years, I finally gave it up for a smartphone in my pocket. There were times when having access to the data on that watch saved my bacon, if not my life (insert harrowing stories of dark streets in hostile territory, where the pin code access feature was especially useful). But, no, don't make me strap it back onto my wrist. I am happy to be free from the grunge growing under the watch band.
    • Same here

      I used a Timex Datalink from the time they were first introduced, but I was happy to stop wearing it once I got a smartphone. Watches are clunky, catch on everything, gather filth in every crevice, give you a white stripe around your wrist, and these days, they look rather dorky when everyone is using a smartphone instead. An iWatch is a pointless waste of development resources.
  • Battery life!

    Short battery life is the problem with all these watches. My ideal watch would have e-ink display, backlight, alarm with vibrate, bluetooth receiving capability and battery life of at least 6 months.
    If I have to charge my watch as frequently as my phone then I see no reason to have such watch. It is like having two smartphones for no good reason.