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The past and present life of smartwatches: Talk about the early smartwatch system

2024-05-28

In 1940, the first calculable wristwatch was born, and what made it remarkable was that it could perform calculations using mechanical mechanisms. While smartwatches have been popular for many years now, there hasn’t been a comprehensive article that introduces the operating systems of smartwatches. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of smartwatches, covering their definition, historical development, and early operating systems.

What is a Smartwatch?
With the advancement of mobile technology, many traditional electronic devices have started to incorporate mobile capabilities. For example, the once-simple wristwatch, used solely for telling time, can now connect to the internet through smartphones or home networks. It can display features such as call notifications, Twitter and news feeds, weather information, and more. Such advanced watches are referred to as smartwatches.

History of Smartwatches

In 1940, the first calculable wristwatch emerged, notable for performing calculations using mechanical components. While this may not fit the modern definition of “smart,” it was a remarkable step.
In 1972, the Pulsar, developed by Hamilton, made its debut as the first electronic watch. Its design resembled the Casio calculator watches we saw in high school, but it still lacked advanced smart features.
In 1985, Epson, known for printers, introduced the world’s first platform-based watch capable of running applications. It was based on the Zilog Z80 system and could load various applications via ROM add-ons.
In 1998, Seiko released the Ruputer smartwatch, considered a true precursor to modern smartwatches. It featured a 16-bit 3.6MHz CPU, 128KB RAM, and 2MB of storage, allowing the loading of programs tailored to the platform.
Early Smartwatch Operating Systems
Early smartwatches had limited functionalities. As operating systems began to evolve, a new era of smartwatches emerged, relying not only on hardware but also on operating systems to expand their capabilities. Let’s explore some of the early smartwatch operating systems.
Linux: In 2000, IBM introduced the world’s first Linux-based smartwatch. Although it was considered the beginning of smart hardware, it faced skepticism at a time when people debated whether phones would replace watches. This watch had limited battery life, initially only 6 hours but later extended to 12 hours. It featured 8MB of memory and ran on Linux 2.2. IBM partnered with Citizen Watch Co. to create the “WatchPad,” which evolved to have a 320 x 240 QVGA display, ran Linux 2.4, and included features like a calendar program, Bluetooth, 8MB of temporary storage, and 16MB of flash storage. Despite its innovations, the project was discontinued around 2001-2002.

Palm OS: In 2004, FOSSIL released the “Abacus,” a wrist PDA running PALM OS 4.1.2. It featured a Motorola Dragonball Super VZ 66 MHz processor, 8MB of memory, 4MB of storage, and a 160 x 160 black-and-white touchscreen. It could run hundreds of applications but lacked internet connectivity.

Micrium μC/OS-II: Developed by Micrium, μC/OS-II was a portable, embeddable, customizable, preemptive real-time multitasking kernel suitable for various microprocessors, microcontrollers, and digital processing chips. It was used in devices like the Sony smart watch 2, Sony smart watch, and Sony Ericsson LiveView. In 2010, Sony Ericsson introduced the first-generation smartwatch, Sony Ericsson LiveView, which ran a modified version of μC/OS-II and was one of the first to support Android OS on a smartwatch.

These early smartwatches paved the way for the development of modern smartwatches, despite their limited capabilities and sometimes niche appeal. They offered glimpses into the potential of wearable technology and operating systems that would later become key components of the smartwatch industry.


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