This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
The catapult to the future.
Nineteen ninety-six stands as the opening year in our era of anytime-anywhere communications. That year, Mike Lazaridis unveiled the prototype of his first wireless communications device. Sure, there were all kinds of cellular phones on the market by then, but while most telecom firms and mobile carriers still focused on voice, the enterprising engineer from Waterloo, Ontario, believed people were just as eager to communicate by data. The next year, his company, Research in Motion, released the BlackBerry, the first mobile device synched with its owner’s email account. Yet it wasn’t until 2002 that Lazaridis’s creation truly exploded on the scene. Sleek and colourful, this latest version of the BlackBerry device enabled its owners to communicate via email and phone. It also incorporated BlackBerry messenger, a proprietary service by which people could confidently exchange text messages over a dedicated network in complete privacy. The device was a communications marvel and, within months, a cultural phenomenon. Slick and sophisticated, the BlackBerry was soon in the palms of seemingly everyone, at once fueling and satisfying their blossoming addiction to being connected anytime, anywhere. The device that took shape in the mind of Mike Lazaridis will long be remembered as the Canadian innovation that launched the age of mobile digital communications.