Stories

5 years before iPhone and Android – MSX

In 2003, Peter started Mobile Subscriber Experiences (MSX) Inc to create the next generation user interfaces for Feature Phones.
This was 5 years before the smartphone revolution (iPhone & Android), when flip phones were the popular form factor, based on proprietary real-time operating systems (RTOS) using entry-level ARM-7 processors. However the industry wanted to provide consumers flexible user experiences with the ability to download custom services using designer tools. Hence creating the MSX Platform.

Initially MSX created complete custom phone designs, like an MVNO phone for Motorola and a prototype phone for Portalplayer. At the time, Portalplayer was the main chipset vendor for Apple.

As the phone hardware evolved, MSX focussed on the software platform which enabled OEMs & Operators to quickly change user experience over the air (OTA). MSX provided next generation experiences for Verizon, Sprint and at&t.

Here are some examples of user experiences that were created using the MSX Platform: xPhone Prototype and Gaxoo feature phone MVNO

MSX was acquired by Cellmania in 2008, which was acquired a year later by RIM Blackberry

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Designed World’s First PocketPC – DIP

Distributed Information Processing Ltd (DIP) was started in 1986 by ex-Psion employees (D)avid Frodsham, (I)an Cullimore and (P)eter Baldwin – hence the DIP name.

The company was started before there was a tech scene in London so we were competing for funding with hotel chains and stud farms.  After 6 months of bootstrapping we obtained investment from renowned UK business leaders Herman Hauser and Sir Kenneth Corfield

The DIP engineers created the complete PocketPC technology from scratch:

  • At the time, PCs cost $3000+, weighed over 20 pounds. The DIP technology enabled $300 one pound portable devices powered by 3 * AA batteries
  • To do this required the writing of a complete ROM executable PC software stack including BIOS, Operating System (compatible with Microsoft MS-DOS)
    plus suite of Personal Information Management (PIM) software including a Lotus1-2-3 compatible spreadsheet
  • The PC compatible hardware including custom ASIC and unique interface technologies.

PocketPCProto
DIP created a short production run of working prototypes and after some Asian manufacturing discussions, decided to license the design to Atari.

Atari manufactured the initial product in Japan and launched the Atari Portfolio which DIP also sold as DIP PocketPC.  This came to market 7 years before the Palm Pilot, Microsoft PocketPC and Apple Newton

DIPPocketPCand AtariPortfolio
MOVIE TRIVIA. The Pocket PC appears in the film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, where it is used by the young John Connor to hack an ATM hack with a ribbon cable connecting the parallel interface.

In 1989, Peter started the DIP subsidiary, DIP Systems, as UK’s largest specialist distributor of Hand-Held & Pocket Computers.
As part of the DIP Board and on the executive team of DIP Research, Peter furthered the technology and helped create a 100% PC compatible
(software & hardware) which ran all PC Apps. The first product that used this was the Sharp PC3000.

SharpPC3000
In 1992, DIP Research signed a strategic development relationship with Phoenix Technologies (NASDAQ: PTEC) and Peter came out to San Jose to run this joint business. It went so well that PTEC decided to buy DIP Research in 1993. After the acquisition, Peter
stayed with PTEC in Silicon Valley and ran the Phoenix non-PC business, growing it from $0 to over 20% of revenues.

Psion Firsts

After University, Peter received offers from large IT firms, an oil exploration company and Psion, an 8 person start-up in London.  Rejecting the advice of what was the norm in 1983, Peter joined Psion and started work as software engineer in their London converted warehouse.

Here are some of the projects that Peter worked on in the first 12 months:

Check out the removable storage – 32KB EPROM which can be erased using UV light – extremely consumer unfriendly, but state of the art in 1984!!

For the same price as today’s 128MB Flash Card (4000x capacity and 1/100 of volume).

NOTE: The Psion software became the basis for the World’s leading smart phone OS – Symbian (In 2006, over 2/3 of all smartphones used Symbian)

After Psion grew to 150 people, the innovation slowed so 3 Psion employees (including Peter) decided to start DIP – click link for highlights on achievements at DIP

30 Years Before Siri

Peter studied Engineering Mathematics at Bristol University in the south west of England.
At the time, this was a new course that provided a crossover of applied mathematics and more traditional engineering disciplines (Aero, Mechanical, Electrical and Civil).

In the third-year, Peter started studying artificial intelligence and discussing the ideas raised by books like Godel, Escher & Bach by Douglas R. Hofstadter

For his final year project, Peter chose to a Natural Language Processing (NLP) project.
30 years before Apple’s Siri

AI Project Front Page

Click on this to See the Final Year NLP Project

Professor Baldwin (no relation) offered an opportunity for Peter to continue his research as part of a PhD.  However it involved funding from Underwater Weapons Research – so Peter decided to get a “commercial job” instead.

See Psion First Story for what Peter did after University