Where Were You When The iPhone Was Born? [Feature]



Today is the fourth anniversary of the release of the original iPhone, and for Cult of Mac’s writers, it’s a particularly important birthday: not only does June 29th mark the anniversary of one of our most all-time beloved gadgets, but it’s also a day so momentous that it has rippled through every aspect of our professional lives as both Apple fans and writers.

To mark the occasion, five of Cult of Mac’s writers got together to talk about where we were when the first iPhone came out, what it meant for us then and what it means for us now. Check out our stories, then please feel free to hop in and leave a comment telling us where you were when the iPhone was born.

Leander Kahney

There’s only been a couple of times that I thought technology was truly magical. Seeing a Palm Pilot convert my handwriting into text was one, and using the iPhone for the first time was the other.

I took my kids to get my first iPhone. Of course, they grabbed it from me and I couldn’t get it back for hours. They had it figured out in a few minutes. That doesn’t seem so remarkable now, but I was impressed at the time. It was so naturally intuitive, even though nothing like it had been seen before. They squealed with delight at the finger candy: swiping, pinching and zooming.

I remember getting a kick out of simple things: double tapping to zoom into a story in the New York Times; getting the full web on the go; seeing the screen go dark when I moved my finger over the proximity sensor.

Over time it has become even more remarkable. Each hardware iteration is better than the last. The iPhone 4 is a stunning piece of engineering; beautifully made and durable. I’ve dropped it on concrete several times and there’s just a couple of small chips in the glass. It’s remarkable it isn’t broken, given the abuse.

But the best thing is all the apps. It transforms from a reading device to a games console to a bike computer, depending on which app is loaded. It’s the infinite gadget.

John Brownlee

By the time I got the first iPhone in my pocket, the iPhone 3G was already on store shelves, but a buddy who was upgrading sold me his old one. It didn’t matter to me, really, though: all I wanted was my first fancy smartphone. What I got was something more… an always-connected computer that lived in my pocket, and which could settle all debates, arrange for tickets to a play, tell me the weather, help me meet friends and more. Four years later, we take that all for granted, but for me, it was revolutionary, in that it finally blended the Internet in all of its facets into the fabric of my real life. No longer was I only “on the Internet” late at night when I was drinking a beer or prowling forums: it was part of my real, everyday life, for good and for ill. It was transformative.

Buster Heine

All I wanted was a touchscreen iPod.

That’s what the rumormill said was coming along with the iPhone, and when it turned out that the iPhone and the touchscreen iPod were actually the same device, I was slightly disappointed. Steve Jobs has a habit of disappointing me with every keynote because his vision is always different, and usually better than mine.

Despite having little need for a $600 fancy phone, I went to the Apple Store on launch day to check it out anyway. Twenty seconds of holding that original iPhone was all it took to get me hooked.

It just felt good in my hand, and the touchscreen wasn’t clunky and delayed. Everything was perfect (other than that stupid recessed headphone jack that Jobs added to sell some more Apple headphones). The Apple Specialist saw immediately that I was hooked and said they only have a few units left, which in turn made me pull out my bank card faster than if I were starving for a burrito.

Including the security deposit for a new AT&T account, it cost $900 for me to get that iPhone on launch-day. A ridiculous sum for a phone at the time, and yet I don’t regret it as it feels like life would be a bit less colorful without it.

Lonnie Lazar

I first saw the iPhone rotating inside a glass curio display at Macworld in 2007, when Steve Jobs unveiled the thing to a universe of people who had no idea what was about to hit them.

I remember following the reaction in the Apple blogosphere later that summer when the iPhone actually made it into the wild, and I remember thinking to myself, “damn, these people are hard to please.”

I didn’t actually get to use one until just after the release of the iPhone 3G, when one of my more well-to-do and gadget-obsessed friends suddenly had an Orig to spare. I used it for almost a year before I was able to splurge on my own 3G unit just before the 3GS came out.

Ah, timing, eh?

Full disclosure: I’ve not used another smartphone, though I have played with a Palm Pre and an Android of forgotten provenance. I watched a guy next to me on a plane using an HTC running Android and I thought, “well, that looks preety cool,” but basically I’m of the opinion that Apple fundamentally changed the way human beings access information and communicate when it invented the iPhone. And now, almost four years later, iPhone still seems — to me — the undisputed Smartphone champion.

Adam Rosen

I didn’t jump on the iPhone bandwagon until the second generation iPhone 3G came out, but many of my colleagues dove right in.  The first time I picked one up was when a client needed help pairing their new Apple bluetooth earpiece with the their phone.  Had to learn iOS pretty quickly!  The iPhone quickly became a player on the smartphone landscape, and Apple – moving with uncharacteristic speed – opened up the phone to third party apps and 3G networking just a year after launch.  I’ve been in since ’08, and am now on my third model.

David Martin

When the original iPhone was released in 2007, I was traveling through Daphne, Alabama right on the Gulf coast and there wasn’t an Apple Store within a reasonable distance. In fact, I don’t think Alabama even had an Apple Store back then, but I might be wrong about that.

However, there was an AT&T store and it had a line outside the first time I drove past it. I didn’t even stop. I didn’t think the iPhone was going to be that big of a deal back then, but I know a lot better now. The line there wasn’t anything like the other lines I was hearing about all over the U.S.

I waited until almost closing time and returned to the AT&T store. I picked up the iPhone that was on display and I was honestly not that impressed. I was carrying a Palm Treo 755 back then and I was a solid Palm advocate who happened to also be locked into my contract with Sprint. The new iPhone back then was nice, but it was the fact that initially you could not add apps to it that made it a turn off to me. I had a whole library of apps on my Palm that were hard to let go of.

Months later my Sprint contract ran out and I’d heard about people who had hacked their iPhone, installed their own software, and I was immediately interested. I purchased one not soon after that and I haven’t looked back since. I’ll admit that my first impressions about the phone were tepid, but after the first jailbreak and later Apple’s official embrace of apps I was hooked.

I’ll also share a little secret with you. The iPhone is the reason I got back into writing again. I scooped someone on a story about iPhone grey market sales – recall the time when Apple refused to take cash for iPhones? Limited the quantity purchased and demanded a credit card? I do. All these events, the iPhone, and the Macs I’ve personally owned and used brought new life and resurrected a writing career I left behind in 1992.

So 2007 was just as much a big year for me as it was for the iPhone. I got back into something I sorely missed — which was writing for people like all of you. I also got a really nice new iPhone that quickly made me forget all about my Palm Treo.

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  • KenFromEmpowerMac

    It was introduced on my Birthday, January 9, 2007 and I was in line to pick up the last 8GB model at my ATT store.  “it is a phone–It is and internet device—it is an iPod” from the keynote

  • Bobby Hiyakitkosol Wood

    “not only does July 29th mark the anniversary of one of our most all-time beloved gadgets” 

    Umm… I think you mean June 29th, no?!

  • TylerHoj

    When the iPhone first originated, I was [and still am, obviously] Canadian and had to sit on the sidelines as the US gobbled up the new trend. I wasn’t too too into Apple at the time, I owned an iPod mini that I thoroughly enjoyed, but that was it. Then after not delving into the company too much, I see the iPhone 3G at a Fido store just as I’m leaving the mall. In one word: incredible. I walked out of that mall a very happy and enthralled iPhone customer. That has since been my one and only iPhone – as it now resides on the bottom of a Lake, blame an epic kayak race for that one – but I own an iPad 2 and a 15” MBP that’s dying for an in-between. Cannot wait for iPhone 4s, 5, whatever! Excited none the less! :) 

  • Iphoneication

    i was watching the keynote! i knew it was coming about a year before it was announced, apple had started gathering parts,,, i had at the time the g4 17inch sunflower, 

    as a side note the ipad was about 5 years in the making, steve knew it was gonna change everything, incidently i was one of the first persons to get an ipad in albany ny! 

  • Kate MacBean

    I was at Macworld, but I did not watch the keynote. I was able to view the iPhone in its glass sphere, however. We were pissed that it was only on AT&T because we still had a year of contract left on our Verizon accounts. I loathed Verizon since my first cell phone and couldn’t wait to ditch it. I would’ve had the 1st gen iPhone if it wasn’t for Verizon. We weren’t willing to pay out of the a$$ to cancel our contract, however.

  • Wayne_Luke

    Shrug.. I don’t know where I was. Probably working. I didn’t care about Apple back then. I had gotten rid of my Apple products in 1995 and the new OS/hardware looked like overpriced toys.

  • Howie Isaacks

    I was working at the Apple Store at Willow Bend in Plano, TX the day the iPhone first released. What a day that was!  Wow!

  • Andy Murdock

    I was on the corner of Howard and 4th in the afternoon after Steve’s presentation at MacWorld waiting for the light to change when Steve Jobs and Phil Schiller walked up behind me. I told Steve congratulations on the iPhone. He said ‘thanks’.

  • Lars Pallesen

    Ever get the feeling that your timing is a bit off? ;-)

  • Brandon Dillon

    I love reading these stories/comments. It makes me feel “at home” in a way. Being around like-minded people who can truly appreciate Apple technology for what it is, is a blessing in itself.

  • crateish

    I bought two that day. One for me. One for my wife who was out of the country on business. She got back next day and the very first photo I took with mine was of my wife holding hers and smiling like she had just won the lottery.

    That pic is still my contact photo for her on now, my third iPhone.

  • Eric Bright

    I knew it was coming — I read the news from MSNBC when I was still in Rwanda — but that day I was in Lindela (South Africa) Repatriation Center waiting to be deported to Rwanda. I watched the news on TV and felt like crying and jump out of Lindela at the same time. 

    I started counting days for my deportation. What was in my mind was this: “I’ll grab the iPhone as soon as I’m in Rwanda.”

  • Eric Bright

    I knew it was coming — I read the news from MSNBC when I was still in Rwanda — but that day I was in Lindela (South Africa) Repatriation Center waiting to be deported to Rwanda. I watched the news on TV and felt like crying and jump out of Lindela at the same time. 

    I started counting days for my deportation. What was in my mind was this: “I’ll grab the iPhone as soon as I’m in Rwanda.”

  • Jordan Clay

    I was just getting into the apple scene, I had an iPod and iPod video, and after my Dell crashed after 2 years I ditched it in college and pre-ordered the brand new Mac Book Pros. After seeing what that computer was like compared to all the other windows based ones is when I kind of went over board with Apple

    I adopted on the second day the 3G was released (which is about the same time as 1/2 of the contributors–which surprised me) As soon as my brother saw it, he ran out and got one, then my dad saw my brothers and picked one up for himself, my mom, and my sister.  

    Ever since then we always buy apple products when we can, my dad needs windows for his business but that didn’t stop my mom from buy a mac book pro, and 5 apple tv’s for christmas this past year.

  • mrjones11

    I remember Job’s anecdote where after he’d been showing it to somebody they just said “You had me at scrolling”. Now most of us would have been thrilled with a touch screen iPod, but for here was a device that seemed to come from the future. The iPhone more than exceeded expectations, it surpassed the hype Apple is so often accused of, and it put to shame an entire industry that was spending more time counting cash than serving its customers. I loved reading that RIM were ‘in denial’ the next day and now 4 years later the ‘crackberry’ is an endangered species while Samsung, Nokia and the like are still playing catch up and/or copycat. Having used Macs since the 80’s this was the ultimate realization of that product’s promise : it’s the interface stupid. Thanks again Apple !