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Designing for Wearables by Scott Sullivan

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Chapter 3. Smartwatches

We’re still in the early days of smartwatches, which is odd because we’ve had them in some form or another since the late 1970s. With such a long history in the public consciousness, it’s important to take a look back to see how we got to where we are today and what we can learn from the past. In this chapter, we look at the evolution of the smartwatch, beginning with the Pulsar Calculator Watch in 1975, all the way through contemporary smartwatches that work with our phones. We take a good, detailed look at what exactly these devices are adding to our lives (or taking away from them in some cases) so that we can move forward with design that is less influenced by existing patterns and trends, and more aligned with our current needs and values.

Later in the chapter, we get more specific about the cultural idea of smartwatches replacing full-sized counterparts and the inevitability of shrinking consumer technology, but for now, I want to hop in the time machine and take a look at some of the gems of our smartwatch past.

The First Calculator Watch

For most of their history, smartwatches have followed a similar pattern; they’re made when the technology that drives their functionality has matured enough that it can be shrunk down to fit on someone’s wrist. In most cases, the value of the watches came from the fact that they’re replacing their full-sized counterpart. For example, in 1975, the Time Computing Company released the Pulsar Module 1 calculator watch ( ...

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