The Mobile Phone Museum recently received a notable donation of devices owned by Andrew “Andy” Seybold, Sr. A well-known writer, commentator and advisor in the connected devices space, Andy had quietly amassed an interesting collection of phones and other connected products over more than 40 years. These devices have now been entrusted to the Mobile Phone Museum.
Andy had a glittering career in the communications industry – most notably his focus on ‘critical communications’ for public safety. During his career, he worked for leading companies such as BioCom, General Electric Mobile Radio, RCA Mobile Communications and Motorola. Following this, he became an analyst and consultant and was highly admired across the industry for the knowledge and thought-provoking insights he provided. He consulted to device makers such as Motorola, Nokia, Research In Motion (BlackBerry), and mobile carriers such as AT&T and Verizon. He also played an important role in events held by the industry body, the CTIA and others.
His advisory services helped shape some key products in the industry including devices such as the HP Omnigo 700LX – a pivotal development in Nokia’s journey towards making a fully integrated smartphone, BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion, breakthrough products from Palm and even early two-way paging devices.
Andy also served on several advisory boards for major companies in the communications sector including Motorola’s Research Visionary Board and IBM’s Mobile Computing Advisory Board. This is reflected in the inclusion of the iconic IBM Simon phone within his collection which is widely regarded as one of the first devices that could be termed a “smartphone”. This pivotal product is a true rarity and a defining product in the evolution of mobile devices.
The trustees of the Mobile Phone Museum would like to thank Linda Seybold for her generous donation and we look forward to documenting the numerous devices that have been donated over the coming months so they can be shared with the widest audience possible. We hope this will provide a lasting legacy to Andy’s contribution to the industry.
Below is a personal tribute to Andy written by his wife, Linda M. Seybold
Andy’s penchant for communications in its various forms became evident when he strung two cans together, kept one, and gave the other can to a friend across the way. With the string stretched between their upstairs bedroom windows, they would talk well into the night when they could get away with it.
When he was about twelve, Andy was “home alone” while his parents were on holiday. They returned to find their television had been turned into a radio. His dad didn’t know whether to be upset or proud!
In high school, he was a member of the audio-visual club, a group of students largely responsible for setting up equipment in classrooms for teachers. By this time, he had become quite the prankster. Perhaps his most forgettable antic was witnessed by an auditorium full of people who had come to enjoy the performance. Andy oversaw playing the accompanying music at the appropriate times. Everything went according to plan until the audience was taken by surprise as they were treated to the sounds of an aeroplane flying through the auditorium during the performance.
Andy passed amateur radio license tests and became a “ham” at a very young age. Of course, those who knew him already knew he was a ham. He found a local club in the outskirts of Philly. Its members were focused on the technologies and challenges of radio. These folks were largely responsible for the development of Andy’s interest in wireless communications and his extensive knowledge base.
It was during this time that he became a DJ on a popular Rock & Roll station out of Philly. Going by the name, “Herman J. Fertinwangler,” he started his shows with the sound of a toilet flushing followed by the song “Charlie Brown, he’s a clown.”
After a time in Southern California, he moved to Silicon Valley then Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz mountains where he joined an informal amateur radio club. This was more of a social group, and they talked among themselves during their commute to and from Silicon Valley. Andy was a master punster and, in fun, they restricted his punning to Fridays.
Back then, many wives who concluded, “if you can’t beat them, join them,” became hams themselves. Gone are the days of banters when anyone was welcome to join in. Some say cellphones replaced amateur radio, but nothing can replace interactions between friends, especially since that’s how Andy met Linda (his wife and editor extraordinaire). Over the next few months they came to know each other through informal amateur radio conversation, and the rest is history.
Many of Andy’s peers have expressed their amazement at how he could attend a briefing, take no notes, and then write a detailed article with technical references. This was made more surprising since Andy was dyslexic, which made formal education difficult for him. Highly educated, his parents recognized the problem early on and arranged for specialized training. However, Andy discovered the solution on his own. He developed exceptional listening and comprehension skills.
Andy’s career began in the family business where computer typesetting was developed. TV Guide was the first publication to use this new technology. Eventually, the siblings identified their appropriate specialities and started their own companies. By this time, Andy had developed extensive computer skills. With the convergence of computers and wireless data, he found his place in wireless (radio) communications. What was next?
Mobile communications and computing, and his dedication to the public safety community also began in high school. The chief of the Swarthmore volunteer fire department learned of this experience with computers and radios and said, “you are my communications director.” After that he became a volunteer fireman wherever he lived. He was a police officer at one point but decided he wasn't cut out for that.
Along the way, he worked for GE Radio, RCA, and Motorola and developed relationships that lasted throughout his years. While working with the biggies, Andy had an opportunity to join Biocom developing and selling a communications system for EMTs to talk to hospitals from an incident. This “first” became famous when the “orange box” was featured in the TV series, Emergency.
Andy produced several newsletters, updating their focus as the industry matured. These started with “Andrew Seybold’s Outlook for Emergency Communications,” PC Computing, and more, culminating with “Andrew Seybold’s Outlook for Mobile Computing.” Along with his newsletters, he developed a successful consulting firm that grew to include seven or more partners with impressive credentials.
He finally knew what these experiences and more had been leading to when he received a call telling him about the FirstNet concept of a nationwide public safety broadband network. The caller asked him to join in their efforts. He also told him they didn't have any money.
Whether Andy realized it or not, he had been planting seeds for the development of a special network exclusively for public safety. He joined these pioneers and spent a great deal of time in Washington DC in an effort to convince Congress to provide frequencies (the D-Block) and start-up funds. He worked exclusively with the FirstNet committee for two years or more without compensation. Linda was onboard and made it work.
Culminating with FirstNet, he wrote a weekly column entitled, the “Public Safety Advocate,” for the All Things FirstNet website. What could be a more appropriate? Andy was undoubtedly the premier Public Safety Advocate and FirstNet had become his life’s mission.
As his time drew near, Andy said it was too soon, he still had a lot to do…