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personal communicator

A concept for a handheld mobile device that was co-created by Toronto engineer Robert J. Fraser in 1991, who also coined the term. The personal communicator was conceived to provide always-on, wireless connectivity to a nationwide network for information retrieval and transactions (stock market, weather, banking, etc.) as well as calendar synchronization, messaging and email. Contacts and to-do lists were also envisioned.

Humble Beginnings
At least two devices with the personal communicator moniker appeared within a couple years. AT&T offered the EO in 1993, and IBM, in conjunction with BellSouth, introduced the Simon in 1994. Apple's Newton was introduced in the same time frame, but had only a fax/modem and infrared communications. All of these handhelds were underpowered for the tasks at hand and never took off.

An Eventual Reality
The functionality in Fraser's device did materialize a decade later when the Internet became ubiquitous and devices such as the BlackBerry emerged. After the turn of the century, wireless PDAs using cellular networks (true personal communicators) became a reality, and they eventually evolved into the smartphone. See PDA and smartphone.



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