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.
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.
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!
Timex built several versions -- we're unboxing the 150S.
The Data Link was a Byte Magazine's best of Comdex Fall '94 finalist! Prestigious, non?
Here's the box with the wrapping removed. Retro.
The back of the box is littered with information.
Check out those old-school system requirements. How much free hard disk space?!
Here's the Data Link, lurking beneath its plastic exterior.
Plenty of paperwork lies inside the box.
Including our old friend, the floppy disk!
Apple fans must watch from the sidelines, seething with jealousy.
The box is nearly out of its plastic, now.
Today's smartwatches are all about monitoring your health, but the Data Link isn't nearly so confident.
It did feature crude apps, however! Honestly, is nothing original?
This is what the watch display will look like.
And here's how to control it.
The Data Link had a unique method of communicating with a computer.
When you held it up in front of a CRT monitor, Microsoft's special software sent data across using flashing white lines.
Here's a close-up of that sensor.
The back of the Data Link.
A side view.
This gives you an idea of what could be stored on the Data Link.
Next up is the SPOT Watch. SPOT stands for Smart Personal Objects Technology.
Microsoft's SPOT system was intended to make it into all manner of household objects, starting with the humble wristwatch.
Fossil was the partner that build this particular unit. Suunto was another company enlisted to build SPOT watches.
The build quality is excellent, although after years in its box, this particular watch isn't working very well.
Like the Data Link, SPOT had a weird and wonderful method of receiving info.
Specifically, it used Microsoft's MSN Direct service, which broadcast data over FM radio signals.
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.
The clasp is comfortable and feels well-made.
This SPOT watch charges via this metal circle on its back.
Ultimately, SPOT couldn't compete with smartphones, which were just starting emerge from the likes of BlackBerry.
The charging cradle is more convenient than plugging in a cable.
A final treat -- we got a new watch battery into the Data Link, and were delighted to see the date default to 1996. Charming.
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