AOL Mobile Communicator – A Piece of History!

So in the past few months I decided to start adding devices to my BlackBerry collection. My collection as it stood was old BlackBerry devices that I had used throughout the years since my first 7100r that got me hooked on BlackBerry. Living in Kitchener/Waterloo area I figured this should be easy! I started to seek out some old devices to be my center pieces to my collection so I started my hunt for a Inter@ctive Pager 900 or 800 which are the first Two way pager by RIM (keeping in mind I just bought a house and I am a single dad so my budget is not very much) After giving up on that quest and adding some alerts on Kijiji and eBay I decided to go a little new in my search. My first big score came two days after starting to look, someone on eBay was selling an AOL Mobile Communicator brand new still in the box!! This was a collectors dream device and condition (never used). I paid for the device quickly, then waited the long week and a half for it to be mail to me. It finally arrived today!!!! The package was regrettably opened by customs.. thanks guys!! Not a huge deal and to be honest I would have probably opened it to play with it.

I was excited as I opened the box to see the device in a little pink bag. I thought right then, this is a piece of RIM history and smart phone history! I took out the device and removed it from the clear plastic belt holder that I remember so well with other devices. The Device was perfectly married to it! This was the RIM I remember… making products that were just beautiful. After touching the keys for the first time again it brought back memories of managing these devices when I first started my IT career. “They just don’t make devices like this any more” I thought to myself. I put the device down to explore the contents of the box. I had two chuckles:

  1. I looked at the battery and it expired in 2004, so this must have been the original battery it came with (reinforcing to me it was a sealed box).
  2. The 700 free hours of AOL. If you lived in the time of AOL and dial up these AOL CDs were everywhere! You would get one in the mail once a week and in the back of every magazine and in Canadian Tire stores. So to see one of these again was really nostalgic.

At this point the rest of the stuff bored me and it was time to fire this baby up. I grabbed a fresh battery (not trusting the 2004 expired battery) and my heart sank when the device did nothing, was there a power button? Is it broken, maybe it was DOA but the surprise stayed hidden until it turned it on for the first time! I was a little disappointed but to the same extent still happy to have the device.

I did a semester of electrotech in collage, I know my way around electronic devices, I can give it a quick once over and make sure all the connection are snug, solders are solid. I removed the two torx screws from the back and opened a time capsule from almost 16 years ago. The build quality of the parts inside were amazingly modular and had easily serviceable parts (other then the main board which was a single unit with no user serviceable parts). The case just popped off so easy which reminded me of a story I was told by a friend of how people at RIM used to have what they called elite devices. The AOLMC is basically an Inter@ctive Pager 950 with custom case and a custom OS that AOL made (this would be the reason why the AOLMC never got far either, the OS was very buggy, over priced ($350) and only did instant messaging and emails) Because the devices were identical the cases could be swapped with little effort. These devices were assembled in house in Waterloo so the people that worked there I think had some ins and got the guys on the assembly line to switch up their cases. There were Inter@ctive Pagers with transparent red, blue, white cases that you could never get retail so when you saw then you knew these guys were RIM employees!

Anyways, back to the AOLMC, again the modular design just impressed me. Once the back was off and the antenna was disconnected, I noticed that there was an internal battery inside of the device. I thought this battery must be dead after sitting for so many years, this is most likely why the device wont turn on. Maybe it just needs to sit for a bit longer to charge from the fresh battery I just installed.

I could not resist and also dissemble the entire device to explore it. I decided to document this with some photos so that maybe you wont need to take yours apart! Plus I am sure the BlackBerry lover in all of us love to see these kind of teardown photos!

PS there is a surprise ending! Read all the way to the bottom!

Please note all these pictures were taken with my BlackBerry Priv at full resolution so if you click an image please be patient while it loads. it’s about a 4-5 MB a photo so you could see the high resolution pictures of this beauty:

01. Packaging - Front 02. Packaging - Bottom 04. Packaging - Top 03. Packaging -Right Side 05. Packaging - Left 06. Packaging - Back 07. Packaging - Money Shot 08. Packaging - RIM logo 09. Packaging - Device 10. Packaging - Battery 11. Packaging - Under Device

12. Papers - Welcome Kit 13. Papers - Welcome Kit - 1 14. Papers - Welcome Kit - 2 15. Papers - Welcome Kit - 3 16. Papers - Welcome Kit - 4 17. Papers - Welcome Kit - 5 18. Papers - Welcome Kit - 6 19. Papers - Welcome Kit - 7 20. Papers - Welcome Kit - 8 21. Papers - Welcome Kit - 9 21. Papers - Welcome Kit - 10 22. Papers - Welcome Kit - 11

23. Papers - Letter To User
24. Papers - SSL Copyright
25. Papers - Member Agreement - 1 26. Papers - Member Agreement - 2
26. Papers - Whats New - 1 27. Papers - Whats New - 2 28. Papers - Whats New - 3


30. CD - AOL 700 Free Hours - Front 29. CD - AOL 700 Free Hours - Back

31. Device in Belt Clip 32. Belt Clip 33. Belt Clip Side

Tear Down
34. Battery Door - Top 35. Battery Door - Bottom 36. Inside Battery Compartment 37. Back Off 38. Showing Computer Connector 39 - Back Off 40. Back Off Angle 41. Antenna 42. Antenna 43. Antenna 44. Antenna 45. Antenna 46. Back 47. Vibrator Motor 48. Battery 49. Vibrator Motor Pins 51. Battery 52. Battery 53. Rubber Protection 54. Rubber Protection 55. Jog Wheel Removal 56. Insides 57. Insides 58. Insides 59. Insides 60. Insides 61. Insides 62. Insides 63. Display Ribbon 64. Inside 65. Inside 66. Jog Wheel 67. Jog Wheel 68. Jog Wheel 69. System Board 70. System Board 71. System Board 72. System Board 73. System Board 74. System Board 75. System Board 76. System Board 77. System Board 78. Insides 79. Rubber Seperator 80. Insides No Rubber 81 - Keyboard - Back 82 - Keyboard - Front 82. LCD Only 83. LCD - Back 84. LCD - Front

 Happy Ending

So after realizing the device might never turn on and will only be a display device and not a functioning one I put the battery in it and put it back in the box. I was in the middle of a conversation about 30 minutes later and I heard a chirp from the box. I opened it to find the display on. I guess the internal battery just needed a bit of a charge first before it would turn on. It is 100% fully functioning (other than the network) What a piece of history!!

85. Working Device 86. Working Device

AOL Mobile Communicator Specs

© Caspan 2016