Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The iPhone Is 10 Years Old. Here’s the Story of Its Birth. - The New York Times

Final paragraphs of a The One Device review

"But when he gets back to the actual iPhone’s creation, Merchant tells a far richer story than I — having covered Apple for years as a journalist — have seen before. If you’ve ever worked on a hopeless project that felt like it was going nowhere, you will draw spiritual strength from Merchant’s account of life in the Purple trenches. It includes fascinating dead ends and might-have- beens (a prototype based on the original iPod’s click wheel, backlit in blue and orange); personal sacrifices (“The iPhone is the reason I’m divorced”); obscure technical hurdles (the phone’s infrared proximity sensor, which turns the screen off when it’s near your head, wouldn’t recognize dark hair); backstage tension at the launch (I was actually there, watching Jobs rehearse the famous iPhone keynote, but apparently missed everything); even a symbolic onstage assassination (when Jobs publicly demonstrated swiping to delete a contact, he used Apple vice president Tony Fadell’s name, foreshadowing Fadell’s imminent departure).

The iPhone masquerades as a thing not made by human hands. Merchant’s book makes visible that human labor, and in the process dispels some of the fog and reality distortion that surround the iPhone. “The One Device” isn’t definitive, but it’s a start. What we need is the critical equivalent of a Pentalobe, a book that will crack open the meaning of the iPhone, to properly interrogate this digital symbiont, or parasite, that has introduced new kinds of both connection and disconnection into our lives. If the iPhone was a revolution, who or what exactly was overthrown? One of the stories Merchant tells comes from Grignon, who was the first person to receive a call on the iPhone. The punch line is that he didn’t pick up. “Instead of being this awesome Alexander Graham Bell moment, it was just like, ‘Yeah,… go to voice mail,’” Grignon says. “I think it’s very apropos, given where we are now.”"
The iPhone Is 10 Years Old. Here’s the Story of Its Birth. - The New York Times

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