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Unboxing Microsoft's retro smartwatches, the Data Link and SPOT Watch (pictures)

Years before Android Wear, Microsoft worked on two -- count 'em -- smartwatches. Separated by a decade, but unboxed today for your pleasure, check out this retro slice of smartwatch history.

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Luke Westaway

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In the latest episode of Adventures in Tech, we explore some of the exotic, retro and downright weird attempts at making the humble smartwatch a success. Before you go any further, make sure you check out the video, or risk missing out!

In researching the episode, we tracked down two early smartwatches that Microsoft helped to create. One is from the mid-90s, the other from the mid-2000s. Click through to ogle a few slices of timepiece history.

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This is the Data Link watch, built by Timex, in partnership with Microsoft.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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The Data Link was a Byte Magazine's best of Comdex Fall '94 finalist! Prestigious, non?

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Check out those old-school system requirements. How much free hard disk space?!

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Here's the Data Link, lurking beneath its plastic exterior.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Apple fans must watch from the sidelines, seething with jealousy.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Today's smartwatches are all about monitoring your health, but the Data Link isn't nearly so confident.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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It did feature crude apps, however! Honestly, is nothing original?

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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The Data Link had a unique method of communicating with a computer.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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When you held it up in front of a CRT monitor, Microsoft's special software sent data across using flashing white lines.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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This gives you an idea of what could be stored on the Data Link.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Next up is the SPOT Watch. SPOT stands for Smart Personal Objects Technology.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Microsoft's SPOT system was intended to make it into all manner of household objects, starting with the humble wristwatch.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Fossil was the partner that build this particular unit. Suunto was another company enlisted to build SPOT watches.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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The build quality is excellent, although after years in its box, this particular watch isn't working very well.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Like the Data Link, SPOT had a weird and wonderful method of receiving info.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Specifically, it used Microsoft's MSN Direct service, which broadcast data over FM radio signals.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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MSN Direct wasn't free, but could send you things like news headlines, horoscopes and messages -- as long as you were within range of the FM broadcast, of course.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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Ultimately, SPOT couldn't compete with smartphones, which were just starting emerge from the likes of BlackBerry.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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The charging cradle is more convenient than plugging in a cable.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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A final treat -- we got a new watch battery into the Data Link, and were delighted to see the date default to 1996. Charming.

Want to see more retro smartwatches? Check out the latest episode of Adventures in Tech!

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