A concept for a handheld device that was co-created by Toronto engineer Robert J. Fraser in 1991, who also coined the term. The personal communicator was conceived to provide always-on, wireless connectivity to a nationwide, packet-switched communications network that would enable mobile information retrieval and online transactions (banking, stock market, reservations, weather, etc.) as well as appointment calendar synchronization, messaging and e-mail. It would also provide daily personal information manager applications such as contacts and to-do lists (see PIM).|
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 operational on advanced cellular networks (true personal communicators) became a reality for millions of people. The term has generally been replaced by "wireless PDA" or "smartphone." See PDA, Palm, BlackBerry and smartphone.