As someone who is fascinated by technology and its societal impact, I often think back to the first piece of technology I remember owning as a child: A Casio Telememo 50 digital watch (photo from the Argos catalog I would have ordered it from).
Back in 1996, the idea of storing phone numbers on your wrist was a niche that probably only appealed to geeks like me. Now, in 2020 millions of people walk around with smartwatches and don’t even realise they have their contacts synchronised to their wrist.
I can’t find the exact model I owned as a child, the photograph above is the nearest I’ve been able to find on Amazon, and is unfortunately not as good.
Here’s what I remember being so cool about my first smartwatch in 1996:
- The blue illuminator backlight looked so cool in the dark. I was always worried about using it however, as it drained the battery big time, and aged 11 new batteries aren’t easy to come by. Best thing though? It flashed when the alarm went off.
- The hourly time signal – during school assemblies, from about 5 minutes to the hour until about 5 minutes after, there was a chorus of “beep beep” sounds as everyone’s Casio watches went off. Mine of course would always be perfectly always accurate as I would set it to the time shown on Ceefax (much cheaper than the other option of phoning the speaking clock).
- World time – At 11 years old, I had no need to know the time in other countries but it was so cool being able to tell my friends, uncles, and aunts what time it was in New York when I visited them.
- Scheduled alarms – Long before anyone would dream of being able to set a calendar appointment on their phone (an Americanism – back then we’d have called it a ‘diary entry’), my watch would let you set an alarm for a specific time, on a specific date. Whether you’d hear it or not was a different matter. I didn’t have many events happening aged 11, but I do remember setting it for my occasional hospital appointments.
- Water resistant – I wore this thing swimming, in the shower, in the sea. Quite a novelty at the time to be able to have an alarm go off to remind you its time to get out of the pool.
If my 11 year old self had any sense, he would have kept this watch, but alas it is sadly most likely to be landfill somewhere now. I’ve found a similar one on Amazon, but it has far fewer features and doesn’t look anywhere near as cool.