19 Jan: Introducing the BlackBerry

Research In Motion were once the world’s most popular maker of smartphones, but when they launched the BlackBerry 850 on 19th January, 1999, the device had no phone functionality: it was marketed as a two-way pager.

However, the gadget’s ability to bounce emails from a desktop server to its users on the move, and its bespoke instant messaging service, BBM, ensured it soon became an essential tool in the executive businessperson’s arsenal. Until the iPhone came along, anyway…

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the ‘CrackBerry’ phenomenon; unpick the role of Al Gore and Barack Obama as ultimate celebrity influencers for the brand; and wonder whether anyone will still be using one, after the company’s recent announcement that their handsets will no longer be supported…

Further Reading:

• ‘The one reason why I’ll always miss the BlackBerry’ (Slate, 2013): https://slate.com/technology/2013/10/the-one-reason-why-ill-always-miss-the-blackberry.html

• ‘The rise and fall of the BlackBerry in popular culture’ (BBC Newsbeat, 2016): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-37500230

• ‘Classic BlackBerry Devices To Officially Stop Working After Decades Of Popularity’ (NBC Today, 2022): 

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