The world’s first smartphone, the IBM Simon, marks its 20th birthday

The smartphone turned 20 at the weekend, but the first model was a world away from the iPhone 5s and Samsung Galaxy S5 - would you want to carry a phone weighing half a kilo around…?

Long before we had the iPhone 5s and the Samung Galaxy S5, we had Simon. The IBM Simon Personal Communicator to be precise.

On 16 August, 1994 - 20 years ago this week - IBM Simon, the world's first 'smartphone', went on sale.

It may have resembled a shiny brick, but still the tech-savvy of the mid-90s marvelled at the absence of physical buttons and its ability to link up to that other beacon of futuristic thinking - the fax machine.

To mark its birthday, the Simon will be going on display in the new Information Age gallery in London's Science Museum - the first permanent gallery in the UK dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies.

"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 a chunky 500g, the Simon was almost four times as heavy as an iPhone 5s, and, while the phone itself was not exactly pocket-sized, its screen was not far off the size of the iPhone 4's, and it was considered to be quite the looker at the time.

The phone became hot(ish) property among business-types who wanted a mobile phone that could also perform functions that were normally computer-based.

But unfortunately for the Simon, its battery life of just one hour and price tag of over £500 - plus the fact mobile broadband hadn't yet been born - meant it never really took off and disappeared about two years after it was launched.

Luckily, today you can handily compare phones online, so there's no danger of accidently finding yourself having to lug a 'mobile' weighing half a kilo around.

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