Third Time’s a Charm?

So now Microsoft joins the rumored array of aspiring watchmakers.

TechCrunch mockup of Microsoft Watch

Every story includes an obligatory reference to the Microsoft SPOT watch and its FM sideband broadcast technology:

SPOT watch

Yet there was an even earlier Microsoft watch. Industry history, it turns out, predates the archives of any tech blog, even those that stretch all the way back to the early 21st century. The first Microsoft watch was a mid-1990s collaboration with Timex called the Datalink (check out this retro unboxing video, featuring a 3.5” disk and a CompuServe offer). The watch had an optical sensor on the face. You synced your Outlook calendar data to it by awkwardly holding your arm up in front of your monitor while the screen blinked madly. The technique only worked with CRT monitors, not LCDs, which certainly put a damper on its future prospects. I found mine, which is a little worse for the wear:

Timex DataLink watch

And if you go back to the 1970s, there is another famous industry watch which doesn’t even merit a Wikipedia entry, despite an industry titan’s efforts to keep it and the lessons it conveyed alive:

The Microma watch

We’ll see if the next wave of smart watches do better than the previous attempts.