It was a gray day in late 2005. I was sitting at my desk, writing
code for the next year’s iPod. Without knocking, the director of
iPod Software — my boss’s boss — abruptly entered and closed the
door behind him. He cut to the chase. “I have a special assignment
for you. Your boss doesn’t know about it. You’ll help two
engineers from the US Department of Energy build a special iPod.
Report only to me.”
The next day, the receptionist called to tell me that two men were
waiting in the lobby. I went downstairs to meet Paul and Matthew,
the engineers who would actually build this custom iPod. I’d love
to say they wore dark glasses and trench coats and were glancing
in window reflections to make sure they hadn’t been tailed, but
they were perfectly normal thirty-something engineers. I signed
them in, and we went to a conference room to talk.
They didn’t actually work for the Department of Energy; they
worked for a division of Bechtel, a large US defense contractor to
the Department of Energy. They wanted to add some custom hardware
to an iPod and record data from this custom hardware to the iPod’s
disk in a way that couldn’t be easily detected. But it still had
to look and work like a normal iPod.
They’d do all the work. My job was to provide any help they needed