Fascinating piece by Fred Vogelstein in The New York Times on the development and launch announcement of the original iPhone, largely based on remarks from Andy Grignon, who was then the engineering manager in charge of the iPhone’s antenna systems (and who obviously no longer works for Apple; it’s rare to see the company’s code of silence broken even by former employees).
It’s hard to overstate the gamble Jobs took when he decided to
unveil the iPhone back in January 2007. Not only was he
introducing a new kind of phone — something Apple had never made
before — he was doing so with a prototype that barely worked.
Even though the iPhone wouldn’t go on sale for another six months,
he wanted the world to want one right then. In truth, the list of
things that still needed to be done was enormous. A production
line had yet to be set up. Only about a hundred iPhones even
existed, all of them of varying quality. Some had noticeable gaps
between the screen and the plastic edge; others had scuff marks on
the screen. And the software that ran the phone was full of bugs.
The iPhone could play a section of a song or a video, but it
couldn’t play an entire clip reliably without crashing. It worked
fine if you sent an e-mail and then surfed the Web. If you did
those things in reverse, however, it might not. Hours of trial and
error had helped the iPhone team develop what engineers called
“the golden path,” a specific set of tasks, performed in a
specific way and order, that made the phone look as if it worked.
I don’t want to spoil the ending; it’s a great story.