I was watching the Fringe episode, "Peter" (Season 2, Episode 16), where it takes a look at Walter circa 1988, and he demonstrates to a room of military personnel what looks like a Motorola RAZR cellular phone. He mentions that he copied it (I assume by watching it's construction via the "window" device that he had created) from a universe that was roughly 20 years ahead of "us" technologically, and we know that Walter did not visit that universe to get the device, as he clear answers "no" when asked at the briefing at the beginning of the episode (unless he was lying, but there doesn't appear to be any evidence of that.)

But what I don't quite understand, is how he would be able to construct it given the level of technology he had available in the mid-late 80's; the episode takes place in 1988 so he like would have began constructing it some time before hand, at a time when the early IBM PC/XT (Intel 286) computers were still rather new.

So how could such a compact device, especially one known quite well for it's thinness compared to other basic cell phones, be possible to build with existing technology, seeing as phones like the RAZR use much smaller components and chips that weren't around yet?

  • Actually the IBM XT had a 8086, only the AT had a 80286. Oh, and in 1988 the 80386 was mainstream, with the 486 around the corner.
    – Mr Lister
    Apr 6, 2013 at 8:51

1 Answer 1


There is no indication in the episode that the phone was functional. Had he been able to create one functional phone of that size he would have be able to create millions. Therefor it was a model, purely for display.

  • That is a good point; it could have just been a shell, though it looked like the screen was actually displaying the word "Prototype" that appeared to be (slightly) backlit, but it could just have well been a static piece with a small LED behind it, I suppose.
    – szr
    Mar 31, 2013 at 18:53
  • 3
    The dialogue during the scene indicates it was functional. Walter explains that the phone doesn't work as a phone because it's digital, not the analog that was then in use for cell phones.
    – user1027
    Mar 31, 2013 at 22:19
  • Keen, that's the vibe that I was getting when watching that scene. I just have difficulty with someone even as intelligent as was Walter being able construct a working model at a time when cell phones looked like this, and lacking an appropriate network to test it on, all while only being able to observe a working model from afar but not actually having one to examine directly.
    – szr
    Apr 1, 2013 at 5:29
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    Walter was being deceptive, the real issue is in the miniaturization, the digital bit was a smoke screen. - The difference between analog and digital is like the difference between writing in English and Chinese, you do both with a paper and pencil. Sending an analog or digital message uses the same radio signal but one as waves the other as segments or bits. The conversion from analog to digit television broadcasting, does not disable analog TV;s they just need translators Apr 1, 2013 at 11:47
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    @szr I would agree, except for all the times the case-of-the-week involved some cutting edge tech, which Walter than reveals was something he worked on decades prior.
    – user1027
    Apr 1, 2013 at 14:44

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