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Definition: personal communicator


A concept for a handheld mobile device that was co-created by Toronto engineer Robert J. Fraser in 1991. The personal communicator was conceived to provide always-on, wireless connectivity to a nationwide network for information retrieval and transactions 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 eventually evolved into the smartphone. See PDA and smartphone.




A Cellphone Personal Communicator
In 1989, as part of its MicroTAC line, Motorola introduced the Digital Cellular Personal Communicator, which was only a cellphone. See flip phone.