How Crackberry Came To Be Known

The Wall Street Journal gleefully reports on the man who started the Blackberry revolution. Or, as some have said, “crackberry.” These little handhelds are becoming very popular among those who want to be truly connected.

“Mr. Lazaridis, who was born in Turkey, emigrated with his family to Windsor, Ontario, where his father gained work on a Chrysler assembly line. As a boy, he loved to tinker with gadgets and recalls building a toy record player out of Lego blocks, a Dixie cup and a pin when he was 4 years old.

He started RIM over 20 years ago in a strip-mall office after answering a General Motors Corp. ad. The auto maker wanted someone to make an electronic-sign system to monitor plant operations. He won the contract and quit his engineering studies at University of Waterloo. Later, RIM developed a barcode reader used in a film-editing process employed on Hollywood movies such as Godfather III. It won Mr. Lazaridis an Emmy and an Oscar for technical innovation.

After finally getting the baby to sleep around midnight, Mr. Lazaridis turned on his computer in the basement and listened to some rock music. In a three-hour blur, he wrote the blueprints for a reconfiguration of BellSouth’s network that supported a sleek, one-piece, battery-efficient device smaller than a deck of cards, with a thumb-wheel for scrolling and clicking.

It would become the first BlackBerry. He e-mailed the plans to Mr. Balsillie at 3 a.m. and said he’d likely be in the office late. “No problem,” Mr. Balsillie e-mailed back later that morning, “I’ve already turned it into a presentation” on PowerPoint.

Days later, the two flew to Atlanta and gave their pitch to a group of BellSouth executives. Watching Mr. Lazaridis as he waved a wooden model of the proposed device, “I was thinking he was full of it,” recalls George Pappas, a former BellSouth executive, who was at the meeting. But he adds: “What was so impressive was they were determined to make it happen.”