The reviews—including one by our own Jared Newman—are arriving for the BlackBerry KeyOne, the final BlackBerry actually designed by BlackBerry. (It was manufactured by Chinese electronics giant TCL, which will take on even more responsibility for future models.) The phone’s defining feature is its physical keyboard, which—even if you like tiny plastic keys—makes it a bit of curiosity in 2017.
The launch of a new BlackBerry made me nostalgic for the golden age of BlackBerry, which led me to check out past Fast Company coverage. In 2001, we published a story that explained how the company then known as RIM had become so successful, though in retrospect some of its secrets of success eventually proved to be its downfall. Even you remember that the company’s devices were once cool, it’s startling to be reminded of just how trendy they once were:
Who would have imagined that a crew of supersober Canadian engineers would have produced an email device that’s so compelling, it’s become a lifestyle accessory in the highest circles of power and glamour? Intel chairman Andy Grove has joked that the BlackBerry is so addictive, “It should be reported to the DEA.” Internet poster boy Marc Andreessen, a huge BlackBerry fan, has banned the device from meetings at his new company, because too many people type rather than listen. Then there are the beautiful people, including Howard Stern and Matt Damon, as well as Jennifer Lopez and Pamela Anderson, neither of whom is best known for her thumbs. Other power users include former U.S. vice president Al Gore and venture-capital superstar Roger McNamee.