In 2007, Steve Jobs stood on a stage and denounced the “smart”phone—ugly, mismatched keyboards of Nokia and RIM. Rightfully! But he also championed Apple as the mobile keyboard killer. However, IBM beat them almost two decades earlier.
The Simon, an unassuming collaboration between Apple antithesis IBM and Bellsouth (?) in 1992, sported an entirely touch-based interface. No buttons, no keys, and certainly no keyboard. Instead it presented nothing but a slender slab of grayscale display that would adapt to the given application—calendar, calculator, phone calls, etc. Sound familiar?
Granted, the Simon wasn’t exactly on the app store level of sophistication—it included fax machine functionality, after all—but the basic idea is there, in 1992. Get rid of the keyboard! Unfortunately, it was an enormous Zack Morris machine, as 90s phones tended to be, and far too ahead of its time. But there’s something beautiful about a good idea too early, and I’ll always be a sucker for 90s matte black minimalism.