The iPhone: Five years later… | Macworld

The memory that sticks with me, in fact, is that I was temporarily dumbstruck by the sheer feel of the device. I was testing it while sitting with a couple of Apple executives as well as an Apple PR handler. The idea was that I could try out the device while also asking them questions. As I used the iPhone, I found it very difficult to speak questions or even listen to the answers. The iPhone was so unlike anything I’d ever handled.

The iPhone: Five years later… | Macworld.

I had to link to my pal Jason Snell’s reminiscence about his first hands-on experience with the iPhone. It was so very familiar. I probably had my own briefing on the same day. I was a room with a VP, a senior executive, and a PR person. I had about a half an hour or maybe 45 minutes, tops, to ask as many questions as I could about a device that I knew nothing about until that morning. So what was the first thing I said after they handed me the iPhone?

Well, I said “Go help yourself to a cookie,” nodding towards the catering table. “I wanna play with this for a while.”

Yes. I don’t regret it, either. I had been blown away by Steve Jobs’ demo. I didn’t want to be led or coached. I wanted to see if I could make it do absolutely everything I wanted it to just by poking around with it.

It lived up to every expectation. Nothing — nothing — about the iPhone or the way it worked was in any way similar to anything else I’d ever used. Every tap and swipe and pinch and zoom was accompanied by the exhilaration of discovery and of new experiences. And the only time I couldn’t get something to work was when I launched the Notes app. None of its buttons responded. I finally asked for help…and was told that what I had been trying to use was just an image file taking the place of an app that wasn’t on the device yet.

I’ll never, ever get bored with my job. Every now and again, a device like the iPhone comes along. Great, groundbreaking technology provokes a physiological response: a tingling at the base of my neck. When a thing sets off my Spidey-Sense like that it means This is effing brilliant. I’ve never seen anything like it, but I’m certain that this marks a real moment of history.

Devices like the iPhone come along rarely. In between, I look at hundreds of phones and laptops and social networks and generic apps and gadgets which are each about 80% interchangeable with anything else in their product category. I have to check all of these things out. It’s part of the job. I keep right on looking and it’s for the same reason why movie critics keep coming to the screening room day after day even they know damned well that the first film of the day is going to be the second sequel to a movie based on an 80’s TV show: we love what we do and when we find something special, we feel like that love’s being returned.

Oh, and Jason was 100% right on another point. Man, oh, man…as someone who had actually had substantial hands-on time with a working iPhone, there were a few months in 2007 when paying for your own meals and drinks was purely optional. Everybody wanted to hear the story, everybody wanted to ask questions and hear more.

It was just like that scene from “Bull Durham,” only more so.

“Yeah, I used an iPhone once. It was the best 37 minutes of my life…”

We Are The Macworld

Macworld 10 Faculty Badge  455.jpg

Behold, the Conference Faculty badge for Macworld Expo 2010, featuring a whole mess of speaker portraits, faithfully and articulately executed by Nitrozac of “Joy Of Tech” fame.

My first reaction: “Hey, cool!’

My second reaction: “I wonder if I’m on there…”

My third reaction: “Yes I am. Specifically, ‘Yes, you are a loser for immediately looking to see if you’re on there’.”

My fourth reaction: “It sort of looks like someone decided to record a version of ‘We Are The World’ with Mac personalities.”

My fifth reaction: “I’m not in the first row, but I’m in the second row. I wonder how that might correlate, vis a vis the musicians who did the original ‘We Are The World’?”

I’m perfectly aware that I’m not Bruce Springsteen or Ray Charles. Still, it’s a fair question. Even more so when you realize that there are 21 people on the badge and (according to Wikipedia) 22 soloists on that record:

  • Lionel Richie
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Paul Simon
  • Kenny Rogers
  • James Ingram
  • Tina Turner
  • Billy Joel
  • Michael Jackson
  • Diana Ross
  • Dionne Warwick
  • Willie Nelson
  • Al Jarreau
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Kenny Loggins
  • Steve Perry
  • Daryl Hall
  • Huey Lewis
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Kim Carnes
  • Bob Dylan
  • Ray Charles

I think so long as I’m not Kim Carnes or Kenny Loggins, I could walk with my head held high.

The difficulties emerge if you open the field to everybody who sang in the chorus on that track:

  • Dan Aykroyd
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Lindsey Buckingham
  • Mario Cipollina
  • Johnny Colla
  • Sheila E.
  • Bob Geldof
  • Bill Gibson
  • Chris Hayes
  • Sean Hopper
  • Jackie Jackson
  • La Toya Jackson
  • Marlon Jackson
  • Randy Jackson
  • Tito Jackson
  • Waylon Jennings
  • Bette Midler
  • John Oates
  • Jeffrey Osborne
  • Anita Pointer
  • Ruth Pointer
  • Smokey Robinson

I’m sure you spotted the problem: yes, holy jumping Moses that’s a whole ****load of Jacksons in there, huh? It’s like a Wheel Of Fortune in which every fourth or fifth slot is “BANKRUPT.” The only smart move is not to even play. Being compared with Michael Jackson is kind of okay. Do let us acknowledge that the man was profoundly talented. But if were said to be “the Mac community’s equivalent of” any of the others, then that’d be the end of my career.

(Not because of any kind of shame. Because I’d become known as “that columnist who killed that guy who compared him to Tito Jackson.” It’s hard to bounce back from that kind of PR.)

My Macworld Speaking Schedule

I’ll be onstage at several points this week:

Thursday 2:30-3 PM, Main Stage

The Year Of No Media – I spent 2009 with the goal of acquiring no physical media of any kind. No CDs, no DVDs, no books, no magazines, no newspapers, no comics, no nothin’. It turned out to be a comprehensive report card on the transition from physical to digital media. What kinds of physical media can you do without? And which forms of information and entertainment have been completely passed by?

Friday 12:45-1:15 PM, Main Stage

He Wants To Kill Your Newspaper: An Interview With Webcomics Magnate Scott Kurtz – I’ll be onstage interviewing the avuncular creator of the popular webcomic PVP. It’s pretty well-timed, given the iPad announcement. We’ll talk about the strip, how self-publishing has changed the career path of budding comic strip creators, and how mobile devices are influencing the field.

Friday 2:30-3, Booth 1765

iPhone Fully Loaded – I’ll be in Wiley Publishing’s booth (next to the Macworld Music Studio) talking up the latest edition of my iPhone book and probably giving out all of the best information from the thing.

Saturday 1-2, Room 134

That iPad Thingamawhatsit – I’ll be talking about the iPad, alongside Jason Snell (Czar Pluropentate of Macworld Magazine), Ryan Block, Ted Landau, and Dan Moren.

By all means, do stop by and give a listen if so inclined.

Expo-dus

I’m the sort of well-centered, confident man who has no problems admitting it when he’s wrong. Which is particularly easy for me today, because I’m admitting that I was wrong before when I told myself that I was wrong.

Why am I leaving so bloody early?” I moaned on Monday, as I stuffed socks and underthings into my bag. “Macworld doesn’t start until Thursday. I have nothing scheduled until Wednesday night. At this very moment, I could be doing anything else.

And when I’m spending the evening closing my office for the week and packing for a trip, “anything else” is a savory alternative. Waterboarding wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. I know from repeated experience how bad a packing day is. I can only guess at how bad it might be to get strapped to a table and have water poured on my face to simulate drowning.

(My eye is also being drawn to the words “might” and “simulate.”)

But of course, now I’m in a hotel room in San Francisco, watching live coverage of Snow Force Fury 2010 XXX, Featuring SnakeFire 4000 Ultra Doppler Imaging. It looks like New England will wind up with little more than A Nice Picturesque Snowfall (by New England standards). But of course today, all kinds of airports are shut down (mostly, the kinds that send planes into the air) and this would probably have had a negative impact on my goal of traveling 3000 miles in a single afternoon.

Well, I’m here. It’s another visit to the Reality Distortion Field…not Steve Jobs’, of course, because Apple is having nothing to do with Macworld Expo this year. But it’s still going to be a week in which normal rules do not apply. It’s a week to tell little stories that give the world an entirely incorrect impression of my level of fame, to name but one example. As I settled into my window seat and enjoyed my final few minutes of Internet access before a six-hour blackout…

(I was on a JetBlue plane with in-flight WiFi. But I had already drunk four Old Fashioneds in the bar near the gate and had purchased enough whiskey at the duty-free shop to ensure that whatever I did on top of the beverage-service cart during the middle of the flight, I wouldn’t be able to testify as to my recollections later on.)

(Comedy.)

…I made a routine dip into Twitter. I tapped the “@Mentions” button and saw this:

Macworld SF Twitter Mention.jpg

I turned to my right, spotted someone who looked like that, and said hi.

(Nice chappie. I was impressed when he pulled out a graphic novel adaptation of “Fahrenheit 451” as his in-flight reading. I was reading comics on my iPhone but though I won more Nerd Points, Mitch burned far fewer calories scrolling and zooming than I did.)

No, I’m not famous by any rational definition of the term. But Macworld Expo is a bad week for me to leave an inadequate tip…and I also know that if I were to break into a bank with a loaded gun under the mistaken impression that it was my home, it would definitely be noted.

It’s also a week in which I get to pretend to have a lush and fulfilling social life. I had a fantastic meal with a good friend last night, and that’ll be the score for the next several days. And then there’s the sitcom-like nature of street interactions. Walking through a busy downtown and happening to bump into folks you know only happens in “Seinfeld,” “Frasier,” and “The Streets Of San Francisco (During Macworld Expo).” I bumped into Jeff Carlson and Those Lovely Engsts on my way to dinner and had what I’m sure will be the first of roughly a million chats this week.

Plans for today: a lunch meeting, followed by Idle Strolling with a view towards purchasing comics, and then dinner with another good pal.

Touchdown, San Francisco

Greetings from San Francisco…the city that never pays less than $6.20 for a cup of coffee.

I am in bed. Still. Even though it’s about 2 PM Boston time. Blame the bed here at the Marriott.

When I’m home, I can’t convince myself to spend a thousand bucks on bed and bedding. When I’m in a nice hotel, lounging in a king-sized pillowtop with nice sheets, pillows, duvet, blankets — okay, there’s a lot of stuff on this bed that I don’t know the names of — I realize that I’m an ass.

(But by the time I get back home next week, the Marriott bed’s reality distortion field will have collapsed, and I’ll once again recognize that a man who falls asleep on the sofa as many nights as I do probably isn’t going to get a cheerful return on invesment with a purchase like that.)

For now…I’m prepared to lounge like either a caliph or a concubine on high-threadcount sheets. This is Bad. Macworld Expo (or any other really big show like it) is supremely tense because I feel like I should be getting things done every single second. Even when I’m not doing actual work, well, I’m in San Francisco! I should be going out there and revisiting favorite haunts and discovering new ones! Why am I grabbing a takeout sandwich across the street when I could be dining at the fabulous culinary hotspot known as In-N-Out Burger?

Etc.

For all my laziness this morning, I did manage to have a full day. Was picked up from the airport by a pal, had a Mexican lunch that couldn’t be beat, copped a free ride to my hotel, realized to my delight that I wasn’t nearly as wrecked a I thought I’d be (after a 2 AM departure and no sleep except what I got on the plane), so made a quick trip back to Japantown for an assault on the Way Cool Stationery Store At The Mall, copped a quick nap and then met another pal for a dinner of tapas that coudn’t be beat, followed by a quick tour of the Castro.

And there was even a small bit of Business. I now have a piece of information that will put a big damned smile on the face of any Apple fan. Just a big, fist-pumping expression of glee.

No, I can’t tell you what it is.

Yes, I’m just a big no-fun jerk.

See, before I was told this thing, I agreed to go off the record. Then I was told that thing, and I immediately said that I took back what I said about going off the record because this was just too damned cool. But…a promise is indeed a promise. I wouldn’t even be saying this much if I hadn’t cleared it first.

Now what?

I suppose I ought to get out of bed and Do Stuff. I’ve gotten through the morning email — lots of “So, are we meeting, or what?” sort of stuff — so I’m technically free to go. I do need to hit the hardware store and an Officemax or something to supply up for the week.

Other than that…food folks and fun are the order of the day. Ideally this will involve only the spirit of the McDonalds’ ad campaign and not the venue or the food.

New YouTube video: “In The Air”

Yes, fellow sensation-seekers, it’s time for another video from Macworld Expo. And this time…I actually talk about stuff regarding the actual show!

I’ve been home for five days and I already miss that huge bathtub. My own bathtub is that common sort of pathetic Bathtub-Shaped Object whose sole purpose is to just prevent the water from slopping onto the floor when you shower. I’d forgotten how nifty it is to just settle into a cubic yard of hot, fresh water and read comics until your fingers and feet get all pruny.

Just one more Macworld video is coming…then it’s on to new business.

Leopard: What’s it really worth?

Head on over to Macworld.com. I’ve posted a long piece in which I attach a dollar value to every major new feature of Leopard.

Macworld Feature: What’s Leopard really worth?

So how much is Leopard worth? If it were a collection of third-party utilities, I’ve got it at $409. And I’m sorry to have to tell you that you could have added a zero to that if your uncle hadn’t cleaned off that rich, 250-year-old  patina. Because collectors die for that sort of stuff.

I’m usually pretty critical of my own stuff, so I’m always pleased when I find myself laughing at something I wrote just 48 hours earlier:

And now we have the de-wussification of Mail. Mail was once a candy-apple red Mazda Miata. Now it’s a Ford pickup with a gun rack and a rear-window decal of a cartoon Calvin peeing all over the Microsoft Entourage icon.

Y’know, every now and then, the Plinko chip lands in the $10,000 slot.