The 1994 Smartwatch That Syncs with a CRT - LGR Oddware

The 1994 Smartwatch That Syncs with a CRT - LGR Oddware

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[timely jazz tunes] [computer buzzes, beeps] Greetings and welcome to LGR Oddware, where  we're taking a look at hardware and software   that is odd, forgotten, and obsolete! And  this time around we got this thing right here,   this is the Timex Data Link Model 70 from 1995.  And yeah it's I guess what you could call an   early example of a smartwatch. In the sense  that, you know, it's a watch but it's also got   programmable appointments and calendars and  reminders and notes and things like that. But what makes it really worthy of Oddware, I think,  is the way that you get data onto the Data Link.  

And that is by pointing it at a CRT monitor on  your PC running Windows 3.1 and it synchronizes   just by looking at your display! Yeah. Thanks  to some generous donations from these fine folks   who watch LGR, I've got a couple of these.  So let's take a look at the Timex Data Link! So! [box plops] What we've got here is the  Timex Data Link, specifically the original   Model 70 released in 1995. “Wireless PC to watch  communication by light!” Ah man the sci-fi,  

it's real life! “The personal manager on your  wrist.” Yeah this thing was pretty unique for   its time I don't think there was anything else  quite like it before this. And not much after,   in fact most of the things that came after were  just the same thing repackaged, we'll get to that.  

But yeah the Timex Data Link, it was actually  announced by Bill Gates himself at a Microsoft   event in June of 1994. And got hyped up in the  press for, y’know, six or five months or something   like that. Until it finally hit store shelves  towards the end of 1994 and more widely in 1995.   And it did so at a price of 130 dollars for the  base Model 70 watch with your basic wrist strap.   In fact this one right here you can see still has  the price sticker at the bottom there. And yeah,   that seventy refers to the Model 70. ‘532’ is  the specific style of watch face and band.   This one's kind of a dark brown leather with  greenish teal stitching and some orange accents.  

But there were five Models 70 at launch, each one  with a different watch face and band combination.   Some had fancier leather, some had nylon, some  had metal. Of course you could customize them with   your own bands. But yeah, they were intended  to provide a PDA/electronic organizer-like   functionality on your wrist. And with water  resistance! As far as I know there were no PDAs or   organizers that were water resistant or anything  like that at the time. But, yeah man. Really,   really cool idea for ‘94, ‘95. Just syncing to a  PC wirelessly using your computer's CRT monitor.  

There's a built-in optical sensor on the watch  itself, and yeah. You just hold it up to the   monitor, and here's some footage of that kind of  thing going on. It's just like a barcode that goes   across the screen, flashes really quickly, and  then that tells the watch what you want to put   on it. And of course the marketing, the press,  all sorts of folks that could get their hands on   these things and try to sell them, they were all  pumping this thing up. I mean there were even live   in-person events. Ooh, “it's like magic,” you  gotta come see in-store this demonstration of this   crazy new futuristic tech. Yeah it was part of a  growing 1990s wearables trend, really continuing  

on from the 1980s calculator and computer watches.  And all those that had the tons of buttons and   you could store basic information on there, like  phone numbers or notes or things like that. And   yeah this continues on with that idea. Instead  it's really built to work with a computer. In  

fact, yeah, it was developed in conjunction with  Microsoft. The Microsoft logo is all over the   thing, pretty much on all of the early watches  on the watch face you'll see a Microsoft logo   on there somewhere. And it relies on the Data  Link software, also co-developed with Microsoft.   And no surprise it integrates as well with  things like Microsoft Outlook and Schedule Plus,   and other personal information managers later on.  But yeah it was very much designed with Microsoft   things in mind and MS even had a deal for a time  where they offered these watches as a mail-in   bonus with select purchases of Microsoft Office  95, so yeah. Very well integrated into that whole   ecosystem, or at least that was the plan. And this  was actually followed up with a bunch of different   models. I'm not going to go into every single  one of them, but yeah. There was a Model 150  

in 1996 for a Data Link with double the  memory, and also introduced these small   wrist apps that were sent through the mail on  floppy disks. You can get those and transfer some   extra functions to your watch that way. There was  also the Ironman Triathlon editions in 1997. And   yeah they also added things like timers, multi-lap  stopwatches, and other sporty things. But even   more interesting to me though there was these  Motorola Timex Beepwear collaboration ones in   1998. And they acted as a wrist-mounted pager or  beeper, hence the name. And they worked on the 900   megahertz band and they had the tech to receive  pages, and they'd show up on your wrist. It's   a pretty cool thing. And some of those Beepwear  models also featured FLEXtime synchronization with  

your pager service provider to actually update  the time on your watch automatically. Holy crap,   could you imagine? And of course they pretty  much ended out the range in the early 2000s.   Like with the USB models introduced in 2003  with a little better display, more memory,   a tone generator, as well as downloadable wrist  apps. So a little bit larger a little easier to   get just online. And these included games,  like Pong and Space Invaders clones. Yeah  

playing those on your wrist, that's a flex.  Another thing these Data Link watches are kind   of well known for is being one of the four watches  that are qualified for space travel by NASA. So   you saw these up on space stations and whatnot  used by astronauts and cosmonauts for years.   It's no Omega Speedmaster but hey, it's still a  pretty neat claim to fame nonetheless. Yeah people   are into their space watches and the Data Link  is one of them. And it's also worth noting that  

it is CRTs only that these can synchronize with,  at least on their own, for these original optical   models. There were LCDs of course back in the  day, mostly on laptops and notebook computers, but   those required a serial notebook adapter. It was  effectively just a standalone infrared blaster,   because the problem was they said the refresh  wasn't quite up to what they needed and   LCDs just didn't get bright enough. And yeah, I  have tested this, it doesn't work. It just didn’t,   even on newer LCDs, yeah it's not a thing. So  you really did need that additional adapter,   they weren't just trying to sell you some extra  crap. And one last thing to note: modern LED bulbs  

and lamps and things like that, any of those kind  of lighting situations will mess up the transfer   process as well, even on a nice bright well-synced  CRT. Yeah the flickering and whatever refresh rate   that the LEDs do these days, it just screws it  up. So yeah, you're probably going to be seeing   later parts of this video just dimly lit and  that's why. Yeah I mentioned the tech being   used in other devices later on that weren't  by Timex, they licensed the tech. Like Royal,   they had their FL95 Organizer. There was also the  Tiger PDA 2000, which did a lot of the same stuff  

that the watch was doing, just with presumably  slightly better display and more buttons and   all that kind of thing. I don't have those, but  what I do have -- actually running across these   while looking for Data Link watches a while back.  And yeah! We've got the Rolodex Flash PC Companion   and the DSI Electronics e-Brain which also  use the Timex Data Link system and related   software. Obviously you can tell I haven't opened  these up yet. Not gonna do that in this video but   maybe another time. And uh yeah! They do a lot  of the same stuff as the watches, but of course  

completely different form factor, and some other  additions and capabilities. And this is from 1998   this is from 2001. So kind of towards the end  of, especially, the Model 70 but even the 150’s   lifespan. Yeah. Just a fascinating bit of  technology that multiple companies wanted to   get in on. And understandably so, I mean wireless  communication, always appealing. And especially  

seemed futuristic in the 90s. Let's go ahead  and get this one opened up! [box unboxes] So much paperwork. This watch in particular doesn't work, so I'm  going to be using another one from here onward.  

But just wanted to show it real quick, because  uh. I don't know, I kind of like this design?   With the brown, orange, and greenish things  going on. It is leather, it smells like leather.   Yeah. Little watch. But uh like I said,  I have another one. This is the 70342.  

Yeah! Classic liquid crystal display, we'll  go through the features here momentarily. This   one has a nice leather and nylon thing going  on. Again, kind of digging the color scheme,   it's very nineties. Yeah they packed a  good number of things in here. So we've got   the software this is, I think the earliest  version, it's the earliest one I've come across.  

It's version 1.0a for Windows 3.1 only, 1994. And  got some license agreement and warranty things.   This actually came from one of the other packages  I got, just kind of stuck it all together. But   you can see an advertisement for Microsoft  Schedule+ and some other Windows 95 things that it   can integrate with. And we've got a little quick  start sheet here, installation and communication... ...dealios. It's really simple,  actually refreshingly so, to use.   And uh, yeah. A couple of different manuals, kind  of like brochures [chuckles in paperwork]

So the watch user's guide and the software. And both  again pretty straightforward, there's actually not   a whole lot of complication with this, which is  nice. Y’know it mostly just works like any other   Timex watch from the time! ...from the Timex time.  Time things! Watch things, anyway. It's a watch.  

Really the only thing that is awesome about  it is, of course, that synchronization stuff.   And the fact that it works with this software  just by looking at a CRT. I don't think there's   anything really terribly interesting in  here, pretty much just takes you through...   yeah, like what everything does. No real  surprises there. Now, as for the watch itself,  

well. Yeah it's kind of small. I don't have the  exact measurements, I'll put it up here on-screen.   But yeah, it's not a huge watch, at least this  one. I think the Model 150 was a bit bigger. But   it is water resistant up to 100 meters, hence  you can see the little 100 right there. So that   is pretty awesome. It also has that trademarked  Indiglo electroluminescent backlighting. Which,  

can't really see it all in this lighting,  but let me switch over to another shot.   Yeah it's got that, that had been out for a  couple years when this watch was announced.   I was so proud to have an Indiglo backlit watch  as a kid, it was just like a cheap Timex from,   I don't know, 'Roses' or something back in the  day? I don't know! I was cool, was totally cool.

As for the battery and battery life, behind  this backplate here we have a CR2025 little three   volt battery. It’s supposed to last for three  years, give or take. And that's a lifespan that   Timex said is based on the following: the Indiglo  backlight only being used for seven seconds a day,   doing one data download per day, and two ten  second alarms per day. Nothing more, nothing less,   I guess. I don't know, it's rather precise  for three years worth of a battery estimate,  

but okay. I guess they know what they're  talking about. And yeah this being the   Model 70, that is sort of a signifier of what  it can do, in that it stores 70 entries in any   combination of the four databases that are built  into the watch. And so each of those entries   consists of just a series of numbers and a  15-character alphanumeric text message, I think.  

That's it. So not a whole lot of data per thing,  but you know. The databases are appointments,   anniversaries, phone numbers, and to-do lists, and  that you just get by pressing the mode button, so.   Uh well here -- yeah it's also got alarms  but yeah. Multiple alarms! And you can set   the sound here. Unfortunately the sound is broken  on this one, don't know what's up with that. But   let's see, we've also got appointments! So yeah  I've got an appointment right there, two o'clock   today supposed to film this. I guess I did.  Anniversaries, we've got one coming up on 4/20,  

it looks like. And it will notify you of those as  they're about to happen. You can signify how soon   you want to be notified on the app on your PC. And  then phone numbers, you can just put things in,   like 8675309 right here, in case you want to  call. And uh then there's also the to-do lists,   and these are sorted by order of priorities.  The first priority today for me is farting,   and that's good. I think that's -- yeah that's  the only thing that I'm supposed to do today in  

terms of my to-do list, so. And that's it! There's  nothing else on here except the synchronization   mode, which if you go past -- yeah, comm mode. It  says ‘comm ready.’ And then this little optical   sensor at the top there, that just starts looking  out for those visual signals on your CRT display.   There's not a whole lot else. This bottom left  button also lets you switch over to another   clock real quick, so you can see something in a  different time zone or daylight savings or y’know,   whatever. But that that's pretty much it.  Otherwise it just functions as your typical   Timex watch from the time period. By the way  it's also worth noting that the communication  

is one-way, it's receive-only. You can't actually  send anything from the watch to your PC. Although   I'm not sure what on here you would want to  send because you can't really input very much,   like all of the the things on those lists  you can only input on the computer side.   You can't actually do it through the watch.  Really the only thing you can set on here is,   you know, like set time and date and  alarms. Right well okay, I'm done   rambling about all this stuff for now.  Let's go ahead and get this thing going  

on a Windows 3.1 PC, the LGR Woodgrain 486. And  see what it's like to work with the software side   of things and communicating back and forth over a  CRT image. Ahh, prime Oddware! Yeah let’s do this. [music fades] Okay! Well, I got the computer going  here. And a watch on my wrist. I'm not  

a watch-wearing person, and this one's strap  is too small. It's like an eight-inch one but... barely fits, so. I would definitely  have another strap if I were to wear this. That's beside the point! Timex  Data Link software. [mouse clicks] [computer whirring] Yeah. Microsoft and Timex together,  jointly developing things in 1994.   So in order for this to work I'm going to need  to turn off my lights, because as I mentioned   earlier it doesn't work with LEDs. And literally  every light in my house is LED, so. Hey Flerbnerp,   turn off everything. “All right, turning 16 things  off.” All right so we're gonna have to do this  

just by what little bit of light is coming in  through the windows over there. It's kind of   a rainy day so whatever man. Yeah so, we've got  these six different areas here that we can set on   the software itself which will be sent to  the watch. So we have appointments, we can   select here from whatever the heck. We're  gonna post uh, this appointment. [types]  

“Post this vid.” And you have different  sending options. So that's the appointments.  Anniversaries, similar kind of thing except that  it's going to tell you like, you put in a date for   you know whatever. So let me put in a date here  and then we can have just some text that will   display on the watch. And that's pretty much it,  it's just very basic little bits of information   that you can put in any of these. Same with the  phone numbers. And how many you can put in depends   on, well, like overall how many things you have  that you're trying to submit to the watch. It only  

takes 70 entries, more or less, so even with that  little bit that we have in right right now -- it's   just one phone number and a couple of these other  things, it's already five percent full. So you're   kind of restricted on that and it just sort  of goes back and forth between the different   bits of information. So yeah. This is kinda  nice though, I really like this feature where   you can just set not only your PC's clock, but  the time zone the time and date and whatnot to   send to the watch itself so you don't have  to do it manually. You can do it manually,  

setting it like any other Timex watch,  but you don't have to. And alarms, yeah,   if you want to change the alarms on  here instead of doing it on the watch,   you can do that. Otherwise I think that's pretty  much it, other than changing things between   12 and 24 hour time. And calibrating,  let me just show that really quick.   So this, depending on the monitor you have plugged  in -- I don't really know what it's doing exactly,   but uh. Yeah whenever you've got another monitor  going it does this calibration thing. And then   it also takes you through how to get the watch  going in terms of positioning and pressing the   buttons and stuff like that. It's a nice little  tutorial! Very self-explanatory. And I did this  

multiple times before figuring out that, “oh yeah  the LEDs are preventing me from doing anything.”   But yeah without lights on, or with incandescents  of course, it would be fine. But I don't have any   incandescent lights. You also have this little  sample tone. [computer beeping] So that's nice.   That's letting you know basically what the  watch is gonna sound like. [watch beeping]   Like that. And that tells you that the watch is in  the appropriate position. Handy stuff. Of course  

the speaker, the little beeper that's in  there wasn't working on this watch when I first got it. So I actually swapped the innards  of this one with the other one that I had, that   had -- it was just in way worse shape overall.  So yeah I took the innards out of that one   put them over here, and now it’s got a beeper  which is good. So do we want to send sample   data? No, that's just -- it just sends, well,  sample data. But since we have some stuff in   there ourself we'll just send what we typed in  a bit ago. And we'll just hit “send to watch.”   And again it's got a handy little graphical  step-by-step tutorial. “Hold it 6 to 12 inches  

away from the center of the monitor.” And it can  do either way so you know, left or right handed.   I just have it on my right because it I don't  know, seemed easier for doing video. Typically   I'd put a watch on my left. “Make sure it says  comm ready.” It does.

[watch beeping rapidly] And it says “done, data okay.” How cool is that?  And now we have the -- well I know you can't see   it, I'll switch over to another view. Yeah you  can see we have all of that stuff that we put   in on the computer side on our watch! Through a  CRT monitor only, it's -- it's so cool. I don't  

know, you know. It makes sense that it's possible,  you know it's just basically sending binary data,   I suppose. And just really quickly! You know it's  almost similar to some of the effects that we saw   on like the Danmere Backup System on Oddware  some time ago, where that was sending a bunch   of signals to VHS and putting data that way  visually. But yeah, it's just really, really   cool that you have a little wrist handheld device  in the mid-90s that let you do that kind of thing.   It's awesome! And yes I have tried it with like  multiple watches, you know, the two I have?   Just holding them both up there? And yeah it'll  transfer the same information to both of them,   which led to this satisfying result. You can get  both watches perfectly synchronized to whatever  

your PC is set to, just reminds me of that scene  in Back to the Future when Doc Brown's all like,   “uh yeah my watch and dog’s watch are perfectly  synchronized together so you can see time travel   happening.” Anyway! Honestly that's about  it! It's just this. The only other thing that   I might be able to show would be like the Windows  95 version of it. But it's the same software,   like nothing's different it's just the Windows  95 UI. We'll just do it again because it's   fun. [giddy chuckle] It's also worth noting  that this does not work on Windows NT or higher,   really any NT-based thing. Whoops, I don't have it  turned on. You might want to remember to do that.   [chuckles] Let's try that again...  

There we go. [watch beeping] So yeah, Windows NT,  Windows 2000, anything based on that you know,   XP and above. Doesn't work with that  because, uh well. I don't really know why.   It just specifically says on Timex's website  later on that it doesn't work with NT and CRTs,   that it wasn't able to synchronize or go as  quickly or refresh or something, I don't know.   Either way though, yeah you're stuck  with Windows 3.1 or 95 and 98. Presumably  

Windows Me as well. Hey Flerbnerp, turn  everything back on. [watch beeping rapidly]   “Sure, turning 16 things on.” Yeah look at that!  It's trying to synchronize with things right now.   And that's just because the LED lights are  on. It's like, it's the flicker I suppose.   Anyway. But yeah that's it for the the Timex Data  Link. As long as you don't have LED lights going,   it works and it works well. In terms of Oddware,  you know, it's not like it's a broken thing,   it's just the implementation of what it's doing is  somewhat odd. Y’know? Communicating...

[loud watch beeping] Oh dear, “Error: Resend.” Anyway yeah yeah, it's just the way that it does things makes it   odd in my book. That's really, really cool though,  despite being obsolete and mostly forgotten. Yeah dude. This thing is so cool! [chuckles]  I would have gone absolutely nuts even just   knowing that this existed back in ‘95. It's  just fantastic, the fact that it's got the   little sensor on there that allows that kind of  data transfer with your PC. I don't know like,  

even now that's just a neat thing. Like what  if you could have your phone or something,   and you just hold it up to your computer in terms  of the front camera or something and it just   sees your computer and synchronizes all of your  information that way? I mean, I know you have even   cooler technology, in a way, now you don't have to  point anything at anything. But I dunno, pointing   stuff at other stuff is cool! Though it obviously  had its limitations, y’know not working on   later versions of Windows or not working on  an LCD without the little infrared adapter.   Which on its own would be kind of cool to check  out. Or you know the little PDA things that use  

the same technology, I'm curious how those  work. But anyway that all might be for some   other video. So I hope that you enjoyed  seeing this video on the Timex Data Link. [jazz intensifies] and if you had one of these back in  the day or maybe you still use one   yeah let me know curious what your experiences  might have been and if you'd like to see more   LGR Oddware or other things that I've covered  in the past you can see those already on the   channel or stick around for new videos in the  works. And as always, thanks for watching!

2022-03-13 10:43

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