If there is one single gadget or product in existence today that everyone in the world seems to can’t live without, it would be their smartphones. If an appliance in their home stops working, that is fine. They will either get the appliance fixed or replaced. If their vehicle is in the repair shop, they will simply summon Uber. But, if for any reason whatsoever, their smartphones aren’t working, lost, stolen or simply misplaced, they would seem like lost souls incapable of accomplishing anything in their daily lives. But it was not always that way.
Unless you have been living on Mars, under a rock or just waking up from a deep, prolonged coma since Apple first released the iPhone in 2007 with its multimedia player, the smartphone is that small computing device that is everyone’s gateway to the world. And, on its way to mass adoption, it killed the iPod and all other MP3 players. But Apple didn’t invent the smartphone. In fact, it was rather late to the smartphone soiree.
By the late 1990’s, there was a plethora of must-have technology gadgets that cost a premium; and, with new upgrades being released every year, it simply didn’t make any sense upgrading these devices every year just in order to remain technologically hip. A great compromise, if at all possible, would be to have one single device with a pre-installed multimedia player that can do it all. It was an ingenious idea that needed either a very innovative organization like SONY or a singular genius to bring it to fruition. Enter great inventor Andre Gray.
By 1998, Andre Gray was well established within the tech world as a great inventor. In 1979, while attending summer school at PS 269 in Brooklyn, NY and the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York City, he composed and produced a song on a Fairlight CMI synthesizer titled Cyberpunk, a word he coined that triggered the entire cyberpunk culture as we experience it today.
In 1982, as a high school student, he wrote (dot)RPM: Audio Codec For Computer Music— a highly influential paper on audio compression. What that paper did, in essence, was lay down the mathematical and foundational formulas for MP3, MP4, WAVE, AIFF and all other past and current audio and video compression formats.
In one of his several miracle years, 1988, he released three world-changing inventions on a single day. On August 8, 1988, he modified the computer code for MIDI in order to make uploading audio files to the internet possible and then uploaded “Internet Killed The Video Star”, a song he composed and produced. With that song, he also released the world’s very first internet bot named inkling–an AI crawler bot to track downloaded statistics and report them back to Gray. Along with the song and the AI bot, Gray also invented the voicemail icon, whose primary duties were to notify internet users from various Usenet groups via email that the first song ever uploaded to the internet was now available to be downloaded. The voicemail icon proliferated on the internet and eventually found its way onto 15 billion mobile phones. The song is now recognized as the universal anthem of the internet, the “Internet Big Bang” and the birth of online digital media, a multi-trillion dollar industry.
Keeping in the innovative groove, Gray invented Retrogrooves DJ software in 1989, again the world’s first DJ software. Today, 98% of all DJs from around the world now use DJ softwares from various vendors. In the summer of 1991,Gray invented the world’s first electronic ticket software, which is now a multi-trillion dollar industry.
1994 was another miracle year for Gray. He invented ringtones & ringbacks that year. For the world’s very first ringtone & ringback, Gray chose the 10 second opening of JS Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” that he played on his Yamaha DX7 synthesizer. Gray also released his invention of the SYNC Programming Language, the world’s ringtones programming language. SYNC is also the world’s first third party downloadable app, hence the birth of the multi-trillion dollar app industry. His third invention of 1994 was the alien-like technology he named Mind-Over-Matter Technology that allows people to control electronic devices like composing and sending emails, texts messages, dial phone numbers and typing letters by just thinking about it, thus eliminating the need for the use of hands or a computer mouse.
Gray released the world’s first electronic press kit, or EPK for short, in 1995. The EPK is an indispensable online branding and marketing tool. Beyond that, the EPK is the template for social media; without the invention of the EPK, there would not be any social media.
All of these great and world-changing inventions by Gray prior to 1998 made him uniquely qualified to single-handedly transform the smartphone from a simple communications device into a multimedia device that billions of people from around the world would not be able to live without. Being the first person in the world to realize that people could not and would not pay for expensive disparate technology gadgets like purchasing a mobile phone and an MP3 player separately, Gray set out to solve the problem and the end result he named Microgrooves-Electronic or Microgrooves-E for short.
Microgrooves-E was the world’s first mobile phone multimedia player. Written in the C programming language and Gray having worked on the software from April through June of 1998, it was capable of playing entire albums, record and playback both audio and video, though the video quality was of dot matrix-like quality. Loading Microgrooves-E into his IBM Simon Personal Communicator, the world’s first smartphone, that was given to him as a Christmas Gift in 1993 by his dear friend, Manny Roth, the former legendary operator of Cafe Wha? Club in New York City, Gray debuted Microgrooves-E at the Jupiter Communications Plug.In Music Conference on Thursday July 16, 1998. Since its debut, microgrooves-E has gone on to serve as the direct inspiration and foundational template for all future mobile phone multimedia players. Today, all mobile phones come with a preinstalled multimedia player. But before smartphones with the preinstalled multimedia player would become a common feature included every mobile phone, it would require an electronics company that was on the cutting edge that had the wherewithal to harness the vision of Gray’s powerful invention. And that’s where Samsung comes into the picture.
Samsung, the South Korean electronics giant and Apple’s biggest rival, unveiled the Samsung SPH-M2100 in August of 1999. It was the world’s first mass produced smartphone to include a multimedia player. In the following year, 2000, Samsung released SPH-M100 (Uproar) as the first smartphone with multimedia capabilities created specifically for the USA market. By 2005, the innovative push by Samsung was such that more than half of all digital music sold in South Korea was sold directly to mobile phones. These sales figures inspired all mobile phone manufacturers from around the world to start manufacturing and selling with preinstalled multimedia players. Sales of smartphones with multimedia players were so brisk by 2006 that they were outselling all stand-alone MP3 players combined. In 2007, with multimedia phones sales surpassing the billion mark, Apple openly conceded that this was the future of mobile phones and that they too will be releasing their own smartphone.
Today, there are literally billions of smartphones in use around the world. And even though they mean different things to different people, these gadgets serve most commonly as a companion and a window into the world. And just think, it all started with Andre’ Gray’s invention of Microgrooves-E back in 1998.