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Apple Watch Revealed: The Original

Silicon Valley Giants Had Wearable Timekeepers Long Before Smart Watches

The original Apple watch


Apple System 7.5 Upgrade ad
Apple System 7.5 ad that gave upgraders a choice of free software or a watch. (Source:

A couple of decades before the Pebble Watch, the Samsung Gear, the Sony Smartwatch, the i’m Watch, the Moto 360 or the LG G Watch were a couple of other time pieces worn on the wrist and produced by two Silicon Valley natives. In 1995, Apple had its own branded watch to help with a marketing campaign for its new operating system. And 20 years before that, Intel had the Microma digital watch.

In 1995, Apple aimed to lure consumers to upgrade their Macs to System 7.5, then the latest operating system, by offering either a free version of Casady & Greene’s Conflict Catcher, a program designed to help eliminate start-up issues or conflicts between application extensions, or an Apple Logo Watch. The Conflict Catcher software had an estimated value of $99.95 at the time. It can be assumed that the Apple Watch had a similar street value. Recently, these vintage Apple watches have sold on eBay for over $120.

Later, wristwatch bands for the touchscreen sixth-generation version of Apple’s iPod Nano, which had a square form factor, were used to create the first Apple “smart watch.” There is some speculation that Apple, long rumored to be working on a device many have dubbed the “iWatch,” may reveal its wearable offering alongside the iPhone 6 at its invite-only event on Sept. 9. Little is known about the iWatch at this point, but a natural assumption is that it will work with the new HomeKit smart home and HealthKit health tracking features of iOS 8.

Intel & Microma’s High-Tech Watches

Microma Watches
These original Microma watches reside inside the Intel Museum in Santa Clara.

Believe it or not, Intel had the idea for a smarter watch more than four decades ago. In 1972, Intel acquired digital watchmaker Microma, which had developed liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) for use in products such as digital watches. The quartz crystal oscillator was used as a time base, proving to be more accurate than traditional mechanical watches. The integrated circuit found within the Microma watch was considered to be one of the first examples of a system-on-a-chip (SoC), an Intel 5810 CMOS, as it contained all of the electronic components including analog and interface circuitry. In 1978, Intel sold the Microma name to a Swiss company and the watch designs to Timex.

Microma made the first watch with an LCD display.
Microma made the first watch with an LCD display.

Intel co-founder Gordon Moore said the company released the first watch with an LCD and hoped to do more.

“The thought at the time was that the wristwatch could become much more than just a watch,” Moore said. “You could add functions to it.”

Intel, which acquired wearable maker Basis earlier this year, has indicated there may be a fashion-oriented product shown at Fashion Week in New York which starts Sept. 4, and may reveal more at its Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco that runs Sept. 9 to 11.

This content was originally published on the Intel Free Press website.

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