It will forever be a point of Canadian pride that the BlackBerry made email portable before “smartphone” was even a word.
The story of the Waterloo-based company that put Canada’s tech industry on the map is well known. Research in Motion (RIM), as the maker of the BlackBerry was initially known before it adopted the name of its trademark device, hit it big in the late 1990s with a pocket-sized device able to send email over a hyper-secure wireless system.
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That success, however, proved to be short-lived, as RIM failed to keep up with competition from the smartphone market towards the end of the first decade of the 2000s. Last year, the company announced plans to outsource all hardware production in order to focus exclusively on software development, a strategy that has recently started to gain interest among investors.
Despite its troubles, BlackBerry remains one of Canada’s great companies. But do Canadians really know everything there is to know about their corporate champion?
Here’s a list of fun facts we bet you didn’t know:
1. RIM didn’t quite start in a garage but it, like many Silicon Valley startups, has humble origins. Its first office was above a pizza shop in Waterloo
2. RIM co-founder Jim Balsillie remortgaged his house in order to pour $250,000 of his own money into the company
3. The first BlackBerry was a pager. It could send emails but it didn’t have a phone. When it came to choosing a name for the new device, marketing experts settled on BlackBerry because they thought its QWERTY keyboard resembled berry seeds
4. In its early days, RIM would give out BlackBerry devices for free at industry conferences to help promote it among business people, the company’s main target market
5. By 2007, RIM controlled more than 30 per cent of the U.S. smartphone market
6. During Sept. 11, 2001, RIM’s wireless network was one of the few to remain intact, boosting the company’s reputation as a reliable telecommunications provider
7. Former U.S. president Barack Obama was famously fond of his BlackBerry. But only a select few would have been able to reach the president that way: Obama’s BlackBerry contact list was restricted to 10 numbers
8. BlackBerry played an unwitting role in the Clinton email scandal of the 2016 U.S. presidential race. It was reportedly an iconic picture of the former Secretary of State holding a BlackBerry on a military plane in 2011 that initially led to questions about her use of email
9. BlackBerry’s stock soared during the recent WannaCry malware attack that crippled government and company computers around the world. The attack brought renewed attention to cybersecurity, a key business for BlackBerry
10. The latest BlackBerry phone is officially on sale in Canada beginning today. The KEYone is manufactured by Chinese company TCL Communication under a licensing agreement with BlackBerry and runs Android software
In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, History has unveiled a slate of digital shorts, titled Thank You, Canada, reflecting our historical successes and milestones. They’ll be rolling out from now until Canada Day (July 1). History and Global News are Corus Entertainment properties.