Seiko Had A Smartwatch In 1984

You might think of the smartwatch era as beginning with Apple, relatively recently. Or, you might think back to those fancy Timex models with the datalink thing going on in the 1990s. Seiko can beat them all, though, with its UC-2000 smartwatch that debuted all the way back in 1984.

The UC2200 was the bigger docking station of the two.

The UC-2000 very much looks cutting edge for its era, and absolutely ancient today. It featured a 4-bit CPU, 2 kilobytes of RAM, and 6 kilobytes of ROM. Display was via a simple 10×4 character LCD in a rectangular form factor, with four buttons along the bottom. Branded as a “personal information processor,” it was intended for use with the UC-2100 dock. This added a full physical QWERTY keyboard that interacted with the UC-2000 when the two were combined together. Alternatively, you could go for the UC-2200, which not only had a keyboard but also a thermal printer to boot. Oh, and ROM packs for Microsoft Basic, games, or an English-to-Japanese translator.

What could you do on this thing? Well, it had basic watch functions, so it told the time, acted as a stop watch, and an alarm, of course. But you could also use it to store two memos of up to 1000 characters each, schedule appointments, and do basic calculations.

The one thing this smartwatch was missing? Connectivity. It couldn’t get on the Internet, nor could it snatch data from the ether via radio or any other method. By today’s measures, it wouldn’t qualify as much of a smartwatch at all. Moreso a personal organizer that fit on the wrist. Still, for its day, this thing really was a whole computer that fit on your wrist.

Would you believe we’ve seen the UC-2000 before? In fact, we’ve even seen it hacked to play Tetris! Video of that wonderful feat after the break.
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Smartwatch Snitches On Itself And Enables Reverse Engineering

If something has a “smart” in its name, you know that it’s talking to someone else, and the topic of conversation is probably you. You may or may not like that, but that’s part of the deal when you buy these things. But with some smarts of your own, you might be able to make that widget talk to you rather than about you.

Such an opportunity presented itself to [Benjamen Lim] when a bunch of brand X smartwatches came his way. Without any documentation to guide him, [Benjamen] started with an inspection, which revealed a screen of debug info that included a mysterious IP address and port. Tearing one of the watches apart — a significant advantage to having multiple units to work with — revealed little other than an nRF52832 microcontroller along with WiFi and cellular chips. But the luckiest find was JTAG pins connected to pads on the watch face that mate with its charging cradle. That meant talking to the chip was only a spliced USB cable away.

Once he could connect to the watch, [Benjamen] was able to dump the firmware and fire up Ghidra. He decided to focus on the IP address the watch seemed fixated on, reasoning that it might be the address of an update server, and that patching the firmware with a different address could be handy. He couldn’t find the IP as a string in the firmware, but he did manage to find a sprintf-like format string for IP addresses, which led him to a likely memory location. Sure enough, the IP and port were right there, so he wrote a script to change the address to a server he had the keys for and flashed the watch.

So the score stands at [Benjamen] 1, smartwatch 0. It’s not clear what the goal of all this was, but we’d love to see if he comes up with something cool for these widgets. Even if there’s nothing else, it was a cool lesson in reverse engineering.

$3 Smartwatch Can Run Python

[Poking Technology] doesn’t think much of his new smartwatch. It is, by his admission, the cheapest possible smartwatch, coming in at about $3. It has very few useful features but he has figured out how to port MicroPython to it, so for a wrist-mounted development board with BLE, it might be useful. You can check it out in the video below.

The first step is a teardown, which reveals surprisingly little on the inside. There’s a tiny battery, a few connections, a display, and a tiny CPU board. There are, luckily, a few test pads that let you get into the CPU. What do you get? A 24 MHz Telink CPU with 512k of flash and 16k of RAM, along with all the other hardware.

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Reverse-Engineering The Web-@nywhere Watch For 2001-Era Smartwatch Action

Although smartwatches seem to be just a recent fad, people have been strapping wristwatches to their wrists with all kinds of functionality. Whether a miniscule calculator, a remote control, an organizer or as in the case of the Web-@nywhere Watch a web browser. In the last case only sort of, naturally, as it was released in 2001 and this little early 2000s marvel cost only $85 (or $150 in 2024 USD), so what could it really be capable of? This is the million dollar question that [Cameron Kaiser] sought to find out as he found a new-in-box unit for sale.

The Web-@nywhere watch in action. (Credit: Cameron Kaiser)
The Web-@nywhere watch in action. (Credit: Cameron Kaiser)

Beforehand he knew already that the unit required interaction with a PC-based application to sync the 93 kB of on-watch data, with the required software and remote servers now being very much outdated and/or gone. This required some reverse-engineering to once more bring this watch widget back to life. Along the way it became also quite clear that this watch was designed as a cheap rip-off of the much better 1998 Seiko Ruputer – which later got sold also as the onHand PC – using the same joystick-driven interface.

After some poking around with the Windows-based software that came with the watch [Cameron] quickly realized that while it could establish a serial link with the watch in its cradle, it fully relied on a now defunct FTP server formerly run by the manufacturer, Kinger, along with any games and content on it. Since FTP servers were never archived like HTTP sites, this content is likely gone forever.

Fortunately, the protocol between the PC and the watch is a standard serial link (with parity), so [Cameron] was able to sniff the serial traffic and figure out the protocol, the results of which he has made available on GitHub in the form of a Perl script for transforming text and a C-based application to do the uploading. Now once again Web-@nywhere users can proudly roam the streets with 2024-era website content on their wrists.

Arduwatch Design Study Is Compelling Concept For DIY Smartwatch

Smartwatches are a battleground these days, with smartphone manufacturers vying to have the prettiest, sleekest, and longest-lasting device on the market. Meanwhile, DIY efforts continue to improve in sophistication as better components become available. [Rocky Bergen’s] Arduwatch is a particularly appealing design study, with such visual flair that we’d love to see it become a reality.

The design was inspired by the Arduboy, itself a lightweight homebrewed handheld console of impressive simplicity. [Rocky]’s concept hinges on taking that credit-card sized platform and repurposing it as a wearable device instead. The squared-off, retro design of the Arduwatch is appealing, as is its simple four-button interface and the bright colors [Rocky] chose to show it off. Ultimately, too, its low-resolution display would realistically be more than suitable for a great variety of simple smartwatch tasks, which often just involve displaying notifications and the like.

[Rocky’s] work may just be a design study, but it’s well thought out and eminently viable. We’d love to see how well this design could work in the real world, particularly if built with some nice resin-printed parts paired with a quality watch strap.

If you’ve heard of [Rocky Bergen] before, it may be due to his exquisite collection of retrocomputer papercraft designs. If you’ve been cooking up your own DIY smartwatch ideas, don’t hesitate to hit up the tipsline!

Bare PCB Makes A Decent Homemade Smart Watch

These days, we live in a post-Dick Tracy world, where you can make a phone call with your fancy wristwatch, and lots more besides. [akashv44] has gone a simpler route, designing their own from scratch with a bare PCB design.

The build is based around the ESP-12E microcontroller, providing useful wireless connectivity that lets the watch interface with the outside world. The firmware makes queries of NTP servers and Yahoo’s weather API to collect time and weather data for display. It’s also capable of interacting with Blynk relay modules for controlling other equipment, which [akashv44] uses with lights and an air conditioner. The watch uses a small OLED display and a handful of small surface-mount tactile buttons for control. Power is courtesy of a small lithium-ion pouch cell, with charging handled by a TP4056 battery management IC.

It’s a simple smartwatch, but nonetheless one that teaches all kinds of useful skills in embedded development and design. It’s also funny to think how simple it is to build. A decade ago, before the ESP8266 was released, getting wireless connectivity in such a small package was a major engineering challenge. Even the Apple Watch didn’t come out until 2015! Food for thought.

Modern Software Brings Back The Timex Datalink

As much as some people on the Internet might like to think — no, Apple did not come up with the idea of the smart watch. Even if you ignore the calculator watches that we imagine a full 60% of Hackaday readers wore at one time or another in their lives, the Timex Datalink was already syncing with computers and pulling down the user’s list of appointments back in 1994 by decoding the pulses of light produced by a CRT monitor. Hey, it sounded like a good idea at the time.

Unfortunately, this idea hasn’t aged well. The technique doesn’t work on more modern displays, and naturally the companion software to generate the flashing patterns was written for Windows 3.1. But thanks to the reverse engineering efforts of [Synthead], you can now sync any version of the Timex Datalink to your computer using nothing more complex than the onboard LED of the Teensy LC or Raspberry Pi Pico.

There’s actually several different projects working together to make this happen. In place of a CRT, there was an official “Timex Datalink Notebook Adapter” back in the day that was designed to be used on laptops and featured a single blinking LED. That’s what [Synthead] has recreated with timex-datalink-arduino, allowing a microcontroller to stand in for this gadget and featuring 100% backwards compatibility with the original Datalink software.

Appointment data is loaded from a text file.

But since you’re probably not rocking Windows 3.1 anymore, having access to that software is far from a given. That’s why [Synthead] also created timex_datalink_client, which is a Ruby library that lets you generate data fit for upload into the Timex Datalink. At the time of this writing there doesn’t seem to be a friendly user interface (graphical or otherwise) for this software, but it’s easy enough to feed data into it using plain-text configuration files.

Helpfully [Synthead] provides screenshots of information loaded into the original software, followed by a config file example that accomplishes the same thing. It looks like writing some glue code that pulls your schedule from whatever service you fancy and formats it for the Datalink client should be relatively simple.

We’ve previously seen projects that got the Timex Datalink synced without the need for a CRT, but they still required the original software. To our knowledge, this is the first complete implementation of the Datalink protocol that doesn’t rely on any original hardware or software. Expect eBay prices to go up accordingly.