Unlike many of the other electronics examined in Classic Home Toys, the Timex Datalink watch is alive and kicking and the watch is a credit to Timex for managing to stay ahead of the game in innovation.

The Watch of the Future

James Russo

Classic Home Toys Installment #13
The Watch of the Future
by James Russo

Unlike many of the other electronics examined in Classic Home Toys, the Timex Datalink watch is alive and kicking and the watch is a credit to Timex for managing to stay ahead of the game in innovation.


When Timex Corporation released the Timex Datalink watch in 1994, the Cellular phone craze was still a good six years away and PDA's were the size of laptop computers. The Timex Datalink watch was truly a watch of the future in that the datalink was the first watch which was capable of data transfer through linking with a computer.

One time such a watch existed only in the mind of comic book creators such as Dick Tracy's watch communicator. But now, such a watch had become a startling reality: the ability to move data, albeit small amounts, from a wristwatch to a computer without the use of any sort of cable was astonishing to many technical enthusiasts.

The Timex Datalink watch was co-developed with Microsoft was a wearable alternative to a PDA. The early models of the watch included model numbers 50, 70, and 150 where the model number denoted the approximate number of phone numbers that could be stored in memory.

Previous watches that could store small amounts of data had featured a tiny keyboard on the face of the watch. The tiny keyboard could be used to input numbers and then save them into the watches tiny memory such as those functions used in a calculator. Although innovative, the tiny keyboard proved difficult to type on. Another problem not completely evident to owners of early data storage wristwatches was that if the watches battery expired, so did all of the stored data. The ability to wirelessly transfer data from the computer to the watch and still keep all of the original data in the PC was the one aspect which made the Time Datalink watch such an innovative invention and earned this odd piece of technology a place as a classic home toy.

Because the Timex Datalink watch had no keyboard, the watch was compact looking, could be made to be water resistant and appeared at first glance to be no different than any other digital wristwatch. Upon closer inspection of the watch face, however, one could see a small lens at the 12 o'clock position. Data was transmitted from the CRT of the computer through a series of pulsating horizontal bars that were then focused by the tiny lens and inputted into watch Memory through an optoelectric transducer operating in the visible light spectrum.

The Timex Datalink watch (and subsequent variations which included in 1997 an Ironman Datalink watch which was more rugged) was a successful joint venture for both Timex and for Microsoft. Timex frequently posted updates to the watch's software for download on their website and Microsoft continued to design new software and games to be used on the watch.

Problems with the watch developed, however, with the increased use of LCD screens on computers that did not refresh like CRT monitors and therefore could not be used for data transfer. Timex developed and released in 1997 a notebook adapter that incorporated a red LED light and connected with a laptop or a desktop PC through the serial port. During download, the LED flashed and the flashing programmed the watch much like the horizontal bars of the CRT.

In 2003, Timex released the Datalink USB which represents the latest stage in the development of the watch. Although initially a mild disappointment for the wireless datalink purists, the watch has steadily gained acceptance. Data transfer through the PC's USB port allows the new watch to have vastly increased memory capacity and model of operations as well as two way communication between watch and computer.

Unlike many of the other electronics examined in Classic Home Toys, the Timex Datalink watch is alive and kicking and the watch is a credit to Timex for managing to stay ahead of the game in innovation.

Related links:

www.timex.com

www.wikipedia.com (under Timex datalink)


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