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The History of RIM & the BlackBerry Smartphone, Part 2: The Black & White Years

Last week, I started with the History of RIM & the BlackBerry Smartphone, Part 1. That first part focused on the origins of the BlackBerry dating back to RIM’s first device until the release of the BlackBerry 850 & the original BES. This article will take us through the evolution from the original BlackBerry until the device we currently own and love. 🙂

There were quite a few tidbits going on in the years 2000-2002 for RIM. During that time, RIM released their first device with an integrated phone along with the J2ME OS we now use. It was also the year of the first CDMA, GSM and walkie-talkie Nextel BlackBerrys! Let me know if you find any corrections or more information.


  • In 2000, RIM released the RIM 857/957 Wireless Handheld. (Notice it was still not called a BlackBerry)
    • Commentary: from what I can garner, the RIM 957 was the first BlackBerry device to use the Java development environment for applications though it was not totally based on Java. Until then, all applications were written in C as far as I can tell. The 957 also had a MUCH larger screen, but the screen was monochrome. Notice how the RIM 957 was still not a cellphone that could make calls!

BlackBerry_957 957front 957back

  • The BlackBerry 5790 was released around this time, but I cannot find a specific release year. It had a nice and large screen like the 957 and ran on the Mobitex network. It had a larger 16 Mb flash memory chip compared to the 8 Mb found in the 957.
    • Commentary: the 5790 was the first device with the BlackBerry name (though I have found pictures of older devices with the BlackBerry logo on them).


  • In 2001, RIM introduced support for Lotus Notes and Domino in the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.
    • Commentary: with this new BES release came wireless calendar sync. It was also when RIM released a full J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) based OS. The downside was that they still had not released a development environment for the new J2ME OS.


  • 2002 was a big year for RIM. They released quite a few devices that really started rocking the boat. These devices below were the first to fully use the J2ME OS and development environment.
    • First, RIM released the new BlackBerry 5810 which was the first BlackBerry with a GSM/GPRS radio!
      • Commentary: this was the first device with a GSM/GPRS radio!


    • RIM then released the BlackBerry 6710 and 6720, which were the first BlackBerrys with an integrated phone.
      • Commentary: the 6710 & 6720 included a speaker and microphone, but made you use a wired headset. Both of these devices also ran on GSM/GPRS


    • The first Nextel BlackBerry came next, it was called the BlackBerry 6510 and included Nextel’s popular walkie-talkie feature.
      • Commentary: and so the first BlackBerry chirped…


    • The first CDMA BlackBerry was released called the BlackBerry 6750 and ran on the CDMA2000 1X network. I’m not sure which carriers had this device, but it looked exactly like the 6710.
  • RIM also released the first BlackBerry Development Environment for J2ME in 2002.
    • Commentary: this gave birth to the J2ME developers for BlackBerry. Until this point, there were very few 3rd party BlackBerry applications. This JDE opened the door for more…
  • In 2002, RIM also announced a BlackBerry reference design program that would have allowed 3rd parties to create BlackBerrys using J2ME and the embeddable BlackBerry OS.
    • Commentary: not sure whatever happened to this. The idea of a reference design is usually to give manufacturers the information they need to create their own branded BlackBerrys. I have not found any more information…
  • The Mobile Data Service was also released in 2002. This is what opened the door for applications that access internal corporate information.
    • Commentary: this really interested companies since it would allow for more than just email on your BlackBerry.
  • RIM also released the first carrier BlackBerry Web Client in 2002. This is what we now call BIS or BlackBerry Internet Service.
    • The BlackBerry Web Client allowed users to add Internet-based email such as corporate or personal email accounts to their BlackBerry.
  • Palm & Handspring also saw the light in 2002 and licensed RIM’s keyboard technology for their devices.
    • Commentary: even back then, RIM had the mobile keyboard down pat!

Stay tuned for Part 3: RIM starts adding color screens to their lineup in 2003!

1 comment on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. YAY, you’re coming into familiar territory for me now (6750)! Nice work Rowen, keep it up. Amazing RIM doesn’t share this info on their web site, you would think they would be proud of their roots.

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