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Paging and Wireless Communication with Smartwatches (1990s)

Seiko Receptor MessageWatch – Pager Functionality (1990)
The Seiko Receptor MessageWatch was released in 1990 and combined a traditional digital watch with pager functions.
The paging capability (which received simple and short messages on a two-line display and split words automatically) relied on a FM sub-carrier signal and it was limited to certain geographic areas. It enjoyed moderate popularity and success during the 1990s, but with a number of Y2K bugs and the fact that mobile phones were about to explode onto the market Seiko discontinued service on December 31, 1999.

Paging and Wireless Communication with Smartwatches (1990s)

In the 1990s more companies entered the Smartwatch market including Timex, Microsoft and Samsung. Paging and other wireless communications were in demand and what better way than to provide this capability than on a wrist-worn Smartwatch. Wearable computers that could sync data directly from and to a Smartwatch hit the market. Although these devices were what consumers have been dreaming about for years they had frustrating flaws and proved not to be commercially successful and were discontinued. Not all was lost, or forgotten, as developers learned from these lessons and hit the drawing board to design more efficient user friendly devices.

Timex Data Link 50 – Wireless Data Transfer Linking (1994)
Timex released the Data Link 50 (it was co-developed with Microsoft) in 1994 as a wearable alternative to the popular Personal Digital Assistants (PDA). It was a true technological marvel of its time as it was the first watch capable of downloading information from a computer (by wireless data transfer linking.) It has an array of features including: the capability to store up to 50 phone numbers, synchronization of contacts, appointments, to-do lists, five separate daily alarms, twelve loadable “WristApps”, stopwatch, countdown timer, golf scorekeeper, 10 selectable chime/beep sound effects and a 3-row LCD (the bottom row is a 8-character dot-matrix display).

Samsung SPH-WP10 – World’s First Watch Phone (1999)
Building a mobile phone into a wristwatch seems to be an obvious goal in Smartwatch development, and it finally arrived to the market in 1999 with the release of the Samsung SPH-WP10. It combined a digital watch with a wireless handset and a code division multiple access (CDMA) antenna. It was capable of 90 minutes of talk time (which was the length of the battery), and featured a monochrome LCD screen with an integrated speaker and microphone. When it was released it was also the smallest and lightest wireless terminal in the world. This Smartwatch was certainly ahead of its time but it did not have an elegant design as it was odd shaped and the controls were not user friendly. Samsung marketed the teenage and young adult sectors but to no avail as it was discontinued due to a lack of consumer sales.

Seiko Ruputer Pro – World’s First True Wearable Computer (1998)

Seiko announced the release of the Ruputer Pro on April 9, 1998 and it is considered the world’s first true wearable personal computer. Data was entered through a small 8 direction joystick and it featured an LED monochromatic display. A software development kit allowed for personal programming using the programming language C. It was repackaged and sold in the United States in 1999 under the model name of OnHand. It is able to communicate with other devices through a serial port which is transmitted by a dock on the watch. It was discontinued in April of 2006 due to poor user reviews and competition. Some of its performance issues identified are that the screen is too small for effective data inputting, the rubber wrist band is uncomfortable and difficult to adjust, data input is very tedious using the tiny joystick, and it has a short battery life. These devices are still readily available for collectors in new old stock and used condition.

On-Line Articles about the Seiko Receptor MessageWatch

Another Smartish Watch - Seiko Receptor Messsage Watch - The Seiko and Citizen Watch Forum

Tribute to the Seiko Messagewatch - Copyrighteous

On-Line Articles about the Timex Data Link 50

Great Moments in Geek History: The Timex Datalink Watch - Techland.Time

Apple Watch? Whatever. Reviewing the Timex Datalink, the world’s first smartwatch - GeekWire

On-Line Articles about the Seiko Ruputer Pro

Ruputer the Wrist Computer - Janus.Free

This week in history: Ruputer, the first wearable PC - Spice Works

On-Line Articles about the Samsung SPH-WP 10

Did you know that Samsung announced a watch phone in 1999? - Phone Arena

SAMSUNG Electronics Develops Watch Phone - Samsung

Samsung SPH-WP10

Seiko Receptor MessageWatch

Index of Selected Smartwatches Released during the 1990s
(This list is a ‘selection’ and does not include all 1990 - 1999 Smartwatches)

Seiko Ruputer Pro

Timex Data Link 50