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Happy 20th Birthday, Simon! Standards Boost Smartphones Then and Now

This month marks the twentieth anniversary of the Simon Personal Communicator, a revolutionary device that incorporated elements of personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cellular phones into what many have called the world's very first smartphone. The Simon, developed by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) member IBM Corporation, weighed 1.1 pounds and featured a stylish leather cover. While in many ways it was quite different from the smartphones of today, it played an important role in setting the stage for future innovation. ANSI is pleased to celebrate this milestone and to highlight the work done by its Federation of members to develop standards and other documents that support smartphone-related technology.

While there may not seem to be much that connects the Simon with today's hottest smartphones, one major similarity is clear the moment you pick up any of these devices: namely, the signature touch-screen that allows users to control their smartphone with the swipe of a finger or stylus. ISO 9241-420:2011, Ergonomics of human-system interaction - Part 420: Selection of physical input devices, provides guidance for the selection of input devices used by interactive systems, including touch-screens, trackpads, keyboards, and other devices. This International Standard was developed by International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committee (TC) 159, Ergonomics, Subcommittee (SC) 4, Ergonomics of human-system interaction. ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Human Factors & Ergonomic Society (HFES) serves as the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator to ISO TC 159 and SC 4.

When the Simon was introduced, mobile phone coverage was so limited in much of the U.S. that users had the option of connecting the device to a landline phone cord. Today, thankfully, the average smartphone user has access to networks with far more coverage and a wide array of improved telecommunications technologies. ANSI/TIA 664-514-B-2007 (R2013), Wireless Features Description: Mobile Access Hunting (MAH), provides recommendations for the implementation of uniform features for use in systems for wireless telecommunications, including mobile access hunting, which allows for the automatic routing of calls to alternate numbers when the original dialed number is busy. This American National Standard (ANS) was developed by ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).

One exciting feature of the Simon—unique when it was released—was its ability to send emails. However, due to the lack of wireless Internet at the time, sending emails required users to connect the device to a personal computer. More recent smartphones have benefited from technological advances and implementation over the past twenty years, allowing these devices to make sending an email as easy as placing a call. ISO/IEC 2382-32:1999, Information technology - Vocabulary - Part 32: Electronic Mail, provides terms and definitions for concepts associated with email and information technology, with the intent of facilitating international use of this communications method. This International Standard was developed by ISO / International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1, Information Technology. The InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS), an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, serves as the U.S. Technical Advisory Group Administrator to JTC 1. The U.S. plays a leading role in JTC 1, with ANSI holding the secretariat and Karen Higginbottom, director of standards initiatives at Hewlett-Packard, serving as JTC 1's chair.

Though today's smartphone users are prone to griping about the too-short battery life on their beloved phones, advances in energy efficiency and battery technology mean that few current phones run down as quickly as the Simon, which could last only an hour between charges. IEC/TS 62393 Ed. 1.0 en:2005, Portable and hand-held multimedia equipment - Mobile computers - Battery run-time measurement, includes guidance related to the operation-mode mix of mobile multimedia equipment run on batteries, including smartphones and other mobile devices. This technical specification (TS) was developed by IEC TC 100, Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. The U.S.'s David Carlton Felland serves as the chair of IEC TC 100, and ANSI accredited standards developer and organizational member the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) serves as the U.S. National Committee (USNC)-approved U.S. TAG Administrator to IEC TC 100.

While only 50,000 Simon devices were sold during the device's brief commercial life, this influential gadget led the way toward the smartphones of today. And voluntary standards have been there all along, supporting the implementation of this important technology.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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