15 years to the iPhone: From a secret project to a device that has made history
Disappearing engineers, windows without windows, a broken marriage, a wireless antenna and one device that changed humanity: this is the secret history behind the birth of the iPhone, which this week marks 15 years since its introduction
Friday, 07 January 2022, 15:35 Updated: 15:37
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The iPhone was born out of hatred.
According to Scott Forestol, who would later become the head of the iPhone's software division and who was involved in its creation, and who left Apple in 2012, the iPhone was born out of hatred.
One version of hatred was the personal disgust that Steve Jobs felt toward a senior executive at Microsoft, in those days, a fierce and direct competitor to Apple.
The same senior was hosted one day for dinner at the home of Jobs, who had not liked the man before.
The senior bragged to him about a new device that Microsoft is developing, a tablet computer with a touch screen powered by a pen, something that at the time Apple did not have at all.
The iPhone was born out of hatred.
IPhone 2G (Photo: GettyImages)
The second version of the hatred, was more trivial and less personal: all the executives at Apple hated their phones.
In those days of the early 2000s, the common smartphones were from BlackBerry, Nokia and others, most of them awkward, with a tiny keyboard, and generally very uncomfortable to use and with a shocking user experience.
Steve Jobs unveils first iPhone:
Several Apple executives have tried to convince Steve Jobs, the legendary founder and CEO of Apple, that the company should enter the smartphone market and fix it, including Tony Fadel, who is known in some circles as the "father of the iPod." Fadel, by the way, left years later. Apple went on to establish the smart home products company NEST, which would later be acquired by Google for about $ 3 billion.
Indeed, there was already a precedent for this:
the iPod. MP3 for the elderly among our readers), according to it and "corrected" it.
executives tried to persuade Jobs somewhere around 2004 to do the same for the smartphone market at the time, but Jobs hesitated.
The situation of the early 2000s where people walk around everywhere with two devices, a telephone and a music player, is going to change, the devices are about to merge.
Apple had success with only one device, and zero presence on the other device.
Although she tried to make an iTunes phone together with Motorola called "Rocker", its interface was problematic, storage was limited and the phone was not successful.
A second thing brewing in the background, was the growth of the mobile internet, which was still in its infancy at the time.
However, it was clear to everyone that the business was about to break out and explode.
The first iPod - released in its convenient pulley interface (Photo: AP)
ITunes from (Photo: GettyImages)
One of the persuaders was Mike Bell, who came from Motorola and worked at Apple for 15 years (the writer of these lines went out to meet Bell in 2013) on November 7, 2004 late at night he sent Jobs an email: "Steve, I know you do not want to make a phone call. But here's why we need to do it: Johnny Abe (Apple's legendary product designer - N.L.), has some cool designs for future iPods that no one has seen yet.We need to take one of them, wrap it in Apple software, And build a phone ourselves instead of putting our software on other people's phones. "
Jobs called him immediately.
They argued about it for hours and Bell introduced him to the theory of convergence, explaining to Jobs that the world phone market was going to be the next big thing.
Finally Apple's founder was convinced.
The project was launched, under a heavy veil of secrecy.
Another concept: an iPod-based phone (Photo: Apple)
The chairs are empty
In those days, Apple was already developing a prototype for a computer with a touch screen with multiple inputs of several fingers in parallel (as opposed to screens that hung a stylus pen of those days), which would later become the iPad, a sort of rough and very original version of a tablet.
This prototype was one of the things that Johnny Abe's people in Apple's design department played with, and slept with them in the lab.
According to some versions it is called Q79 and according to others "Model 035".
Model 035, prototype for a computer with a touch screen with multiple input (Photo: Apple)
But the 035 model was what made the iPhone crust and tendons. Apple people were not at all sure that they could create a device that would be both a phone, a music player and a emerging mobile internet surfing device, and that would give a user experience that would meet their expectations. In one of the first experiments they took an iPod, and tried to embed a dial in it, with the pulley used to dial numbers, just like on a classic dial phone ... it was cumbersome, uncomfortable and very far from the slick user experience that Apple was known for. On stage at the launch of the iPhone, an iPod slide with a dial was actually presented as a kind of joke - but it almost happened.
They found salvation in the 035 model. The question was whether it was possible to create a touch interface, but on a smaller screen than a tablet, one that would fit in a pocket. Forestol and its people have created a simple dummy app for Jobs: scrolling through contacts, which ran on a small portion of the 035's screen. it worked. According to Jobs years later, that was the moment he said - we can really make a phone call.
Johnny Abe's first sketch for the first iPhone (Photo: Apple)
Another concept design for the first iPhone (Photo: Apple)
By the way, one of the things that was not in this demo, is a brake. You could scroll up and down without knowing where you were. This is how the return of the end of the list was born, the same "hill" that we take for granted today when we reach the end of the scroll screen. What was born there, is the experience of accelerating browsing, which ranges from slow to fast movement according to the movement of the finger. Today we already think it's a given, so it was not so.
In the weeks that followed, "Project Purple 2" (Project Purple 1 was the "Rocker" phone) creamed skin and circles, and in Apple a strange phenomenon began to happen: chairs began to empty. Brilliant engineers and programmers disappeared from their seats, no one knew where. A talented engineer selected to work on the project said two of his leaders approached him and told him - "Andre, you do not know us, but we heard about you. We want you to come work with us on a project we can not tell you about, and we want you to do it now. Today."
Johnny Abe (left) and current Apple CEO Tim Cook (Photo: GettyImages)
"Can I take time to think about it?"
"No. We need an answer now."
Those who said "no" remained happy and happy with their existing Cupertino projects.
But adventurous engineers who said "yes" were sucked into the secret project, which lasted two and a half years, under conditions that today probably would not have been possible: they worked on it around the clock - overtime, never-ending days and weekends, with deadlines and impossible demands from boss Jobs In his cruel demands.
The creation of the iPhone cost people dearly, and even led to a number of divorce cases.
"The iPhone is the reason I got divorced," says Andy Grignon, one of the senior engineers who worked on the iPhone.
"The iPhone has ruined more than one relationship," said another.
"It was really intense. Professionally it was probably one of the worst periods of my life," says Grignon.
"You created a pressure cooker of a bunch of brilliant people, with an impossible deadline and an impossible task, and then you were also told that the future of society depended on it. It was just a soup of suffering."
Creating an iPhone has cost people dearly (Photo: GettyImages)
Jobs, who was known not only as a perfectionist on the verge of insanity, but also as a no small paranoid, came to those who worked on the project even with strict requirements of confidentiality: the team was not allowed to tell what they had been working on for so long - to anyone.
Neither do the daughters or spouses, or family members.
They worked in an interior and separate area on the second floor of the then Apple headquarters, with special entrance tickets and rooms without windows for fear of being photographed.
They were of course forbidden to take anything related to the project out.
If God forbid any of them were required to work on something related to the project or talk about it while they were at home, Jobs demanded that they do so in a secluded place where none of their household members could see or hear them.
This may explain why iPhone development has gone up in some relationships.
The team was not allowed to tell what they were working on (Photo: AP, AP)
Wireless on cable
In January 2007, the people of "Purple Project" were still significantly far from a finished product. In preparation for the show at Macworld 2007, they had less than a hundred prototypes on hand, working pieces of an iPhone, and certainly not a quantity of production that could be put on the shelves. Although Jobs allegedly presented a working device on stage, the truth was far from it. It was a show of smoke and mirrors that convinced the world of the necessity of the iPhone, but - it was not a working device at all. Jobs presented on stage an experimental prototype, which could have crashed at any given moment.
First, its software and hardware were still immature, and tended to crash. So no one but Jobs was allowed to touch a device that came on stage and became the iconic iPhone we are all familiar with. In the weeks before, the team was working on a closed list of tasks the prototype would perform on stage, what they called the "golden path," and was not allowed to deviate from it at all. Anything else that Jobs would try to do - would cause the device to crash on stage,And to great embarrassment to Apple.
Jobs presented on stage an experimental prototype, which could have crashed at any given moment (Photo: GettyImages)
The Wi-Fi connection on the iPhone displayed on stage was so unstable that Grignon and crew at the end simply fought antenna cables to the demo device, running them on stage, parallel to the cables that were connected to the projection screen, to disguise their existence.
The phone call that Jobs had on stage was itself a Herculean task.
Grignon and his team could only hope that the signal was strong enough - and prayed that, among other things, Jobs insisted that the device always display on the screen an indication of full reception, five stripes, regardless of the true quality of reception.
At Apple's request, AT&T brought a mobile cell to the hall, so the theoretical reception was strong - but as mentioned, the cell connection, like the other unstable parts of the device, could crash at any moment during the presentation that lasted an hour and a half.
Its software and hardware were still immature, and tended to crash (Photo: GettyImages)
But on stage, Jobs, as usual, was brilliant.
His revenge on that senior executive from Microsoft who came to him for dinner almost three years earlier, he took revenge on "Who wants a device with a stylus? Ugh. So we will not use a stylus. We will use something we were born with, in fact we were born with ten of them - We will use our fingers. "
"Every now and then a revolutionary product arrives that changes everything," Jobs said at the beginning of the presentation of the first iPhone.
"You're lucky if you get to work on one like that in your entire career."
The iPhone definitely changed everything, even for the team that worked for two years in the windowless rooms at Apple headquarters, on "Purple Project 2."