When you hear “wearables” nowadays, you probably think of smartwatches like the Apple Watch or fitness trackers like the Fitbit. Wearables, in turn, were a thing long before these devices were released. While the gadgets of the past were far “dumber” than what we know today, they were amazing feats of modern technology at their time, and many of them have seen a success that lasts to this day.
Here are some of the most successful examples of wearable technology released before the time of the smartphone.
We all grew up in a time when watches such as Rolex; are available in all shapes and sizes – literally. Back in the day, in turn, clocks were big, bulky, and not at all portable – not to mention wearable.
That until Peter Henlein, a watchmaker from Nuremberg created the Pomander Watch (Bisamapfeluhr) in 1505. It was the first wearable device that could tell the time, followed by many others in the years to come.
The same watchmaker created the first pocket watch five years later. For the watch to move from the pocket to the wrist, humanity had to wait for more than three centuries – the first wristwatch was built by Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe in 1868 for the Hungarian Countess Koscowicz.
-The calculator watch
When the gears and springs in wristwatches were replaced by electronics and quartz crystals, a brand new world of possibility opened up in front of watchmakers. Even the simplest quartz watches had features like showing the date, some of them could even play melodies and act as a stopwatch, too.
The pinnacle of the quartz revolution was, without a doubt, the calculator watch. First introduced in the 1970s, this smart-ish wearable device took the world by storm. Several major brands built their own such devices but the ones built by Casio were the most diverse – and the most popular.
Since the mid-1980s, when the first Casio Databank watches were released, the firm added a series of innovative functions to its calculator watches: some of them could be used as basic organizers, storing phone numbers and appointments, others – like the Casio CMD-40 – had an infrared remote control built into them, and there was one that was a lot ahead of its time: the Casio TC500 calculator watch, launched in 1983, even had a touchscreen!
Calculator watches took the world by storm in the 1980s and the 1990s, and some models are manufactured to this day.
-The Bluetooth headset
Finally, here is one wearable gadget that has been hiding in the shadow of many other innovative pieces of technology but seems never to go out of style: the Bluetooth headset.
Bluetooth – the wireless short-range data transfer protocol based on UHF radio waves – was proposed by an association between the telecom firm Ericsson, tech companies like IBM, and Intel, telecom solutions provider Nokia, and Toshiba.
The first Bluetooth mobile handsfree headset was presented at the 1999 edition of COMDEX, a now-discontinued technology trade show held in Las Vegas, where it earned the “Best of show Technology Award”. In 2001, Ericsson launched the first Bluetooth mobile – the T39 – along with the handsfree that has taken the world by storm.
The rest, as they say, is history. The following years have seen the typical in-ear Bluetooth handsfree show up in pretty much every corner of the globe. The first stereo Bluetooth headphones emerged in 2004.
Today, they are available in literally all shapes and sizes – and price ranges – all over the world.