Interview

Video: former Apple executives recount original iPhone creation

Apple earlier this year celebrated the tenth anniversary of the original iPhone's unveiling. And as we approach the tenth anniversary of the handset's June 29, 2007 debut, Christopher Mims of the Wall Street Journal sat down with the original iPhone team members who recounted designing the handset's touchscreen interface and more.

Running nine minutes long, the interview features former iOS chief Scott Forstall, former Vice President of Human Interface Design Greg Christie and the iPod “Godfather” Tony Fadell.

Fadell's team was tasked with the development of a device that was basically an iPod with a phone. It featured a clunky hardware keyboard and ran a version of the iPod interface.

“We tried 30 or 40 ways of making the wheel not become an old rotary phone dial and nothing seemed logical or intuitive,” said Fadell. “To actually dial a real number, it was so cumbersome.”

It was 2005 and Jobs was displeases with the direction of “Project Purple”.

“We’d been doing a lot designs which weren’t quite there yet. It didn’t feel complete. And Steve came to one of our design meetings and he said, ‘This isn’t good enough. You have to come up with something so much better. This is not good enough'”, Fadell recounted.

“Start showing me something good soon or I’m going to give the project to another team,” Christie paraphrased Jobs. According to Forstall, Jobs gave the team two weeks to come up with something special.

“So we went back to the drawing board and Greg assigned specific ownership of different pieces of the design to different people and that team worked 168 hours per week for two weeks. They never stopped,” said Forstall. Eventually, Forstall and Christie's vision for the user interface of the original iPhone, based on OS X code, prevailed over Fadell's click-wheel design.

Christie reflected on how their early iPhone interface designs blew Steve Jobs away:

The first time he saw it he was completely silent, he didn't say a thing. He didn't say anything, he didn't gesture, he didn't ask a question.

Then he sat back and he said, 'Show it to me again.'

And so we go through the whole thing again and Steve was pretty much blown away by the whole demonstration. It was great work.

It took them nearly two and a half years to turn that demonstration into a shipping product.

A ping pong table sized demo had a projector that was beaming a Mac interface on it, allowing engineers to use their whole hand to touch different things on it. “It was literally a ping pong sized multi-touch display,” said Tony Fadell.

And now, watch The Wall Street Journal's full video, titled "How The iPhone Was Born: Inside Stories of Missteps and Triumphs”.

According to Fadell, back at the time sales of the iPod music player accounted for half of Apple's total sales so they wondered about iPod's success long term and kept asking themselves what will cannibalize sales of the music player.

“And one of the biggest concerns was cell phones,” said Fadell.

The three former Apple execs also talk about pinch to zoom, rubber-band scrolling and more. Be sure to watch the whole thing, it's definitely worth ten minutes of your time.

Watch rare interview with former iOS chief Scott Forstall and original iPhone team members

The Computer History Museum last night hosted Pulitzer Prize journalist John Markoff (formerly of the New York Times) who interviewed former iOS chief Scott Forstall and the original iPhone engineering team members Hugo Fiennes, Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz.

“We knew we were doing something right with the user interface design,” Forstall told Markoff, citing an example of a two-year old girl and a 99-year old woman who could use iPhone and iPad without any user manual.

“The team was amazing and we knew we were doing something right,” he added.

“The first text I ever sent was on my iPhone, because texting on other devices was horrid,” he revealed. Commenting on Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs, Forstall called him “the most intense person I’ve ever known.”

Jobs was “super driven, demanding and forced people to do their best,” Scott said.

“When he was sick, I’d go to his house every day. On some days, he couldn’t open his eyes,” he said of Steve's passing. “We got Siri right before he passed and he loved it because he was too weak to type. I was surprised, it just seemed like he’d always be there.”

Asked to comment on the then controversial skeuomorphic design, which imitates real-world materials like leather in software, Forstall responded by saying the following:

I never heard the term skeuomorphism, even years after we built iPhone.

I mean, that’s a horrible word. It sounds unnatural, it just sounds terrible. When I look at good design—when I look for good design—I look for something which is easy to use.

Approachable and friendly that you can use without a manual.

If you look at the designs we did at Apple, we talked about photo-illustrative, metaphorical designs. And those were infused into the design sense of Apple by Steve Jobs since the original Mac if not earlier. The original Mac had a desktop and folders that looked very much like the desktop on which that Mac sat.

And so we used these design philosophies. It doesn’t mean that we loved every single part of it. It doesn’t mean I loved every single part of it. There’s definitely things that I was less a fan of than others. But we built these designs that worked. And how do we know they worked? You just had to watch people use it.

Here's the full video of the interview (the Forstall part begins at 1:07).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjR2vegUBAo

The original video is available on Facebook.

Asked if there ever was a time he shook his head at something about iPhone (assuming he's still using one), Forstall said this:

That happens all the time. If you’re a designer, if you care about design, you can’t go through any part of your life without shaking your head and thinking that could have been done better. And I thought that for our design, even the first version. The second version you’re always making it better.

On Apple secrecy:

The thing about Apple is we all get it, we all live in that culture. They were very respectful. You develop a talent for describing what you’re working on without giving too many details.

Fiennes added that the first time he saw pinch-zooming was at the original iPhone keynote. Ganatra said he heard Forstall on many occasions talking about scrolling deceleration, adding he was “being very detailed about scrolling and how the UI responds to touch.”

“There’s a lot of math that goes into making it work so well,” said Ganatra.

And to illustrate Apple's legendary attention to detail, Fiennes said Jobs asked him to move the processor in an iPhone a couple of millimeters in order to make the printed circuit board (which ordinary users never get to see) symmetrical.

Forstall suggested Apple kicked off work on a tablet project, dubbed Project Purple, because Steve hated an unnamed Microsoft employee (Scott says it wasn't Bill Gates).

“It began because Steve hated this guy at Microsoft. That is the actual origin. Every time Steve had any social interaction with that guy, he would come back pissed off,” said Forstall.

“Steve came in on a Monday, there was a set of expletives and then he said, 'Let's show them how it's really done'.”

Steve later put the tablet project on hold to work on iPhone, asking Scott if they could take a rubber-band scrolling demo they were doing with the tablet and shrink it down to a phone.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I also like this anecdote on how Jobs scammed Apple for free lunch:

He and I would go to the cafeteria at Apple all the time, and he would insist on paying. I was like, you're paying me enough that I can afford the $8 lunch, but he'd always, if he got his food before he'd wait at the line for me to get up there and he'd pay.

And he made it so you could pay with your Apple badge.

So you'd come up there and you'd badge in, and it would be directly withdrawn from your paycheck. Somehow, I was like, 'Why are you, really, go sit down, I feel like an ass when you're sitting up there waiting for me and I can't get any long-cooking food.'

Steve said 'No, no, no, this is great. I only get paid $1 per year. I don't know who's paying every time I badge!' He was a multi-billionaire scamming Apple!"

The lunch story is at mark 1:56 in the video.

Although Forstall isn't currently building anything himself, he's “doing a lot” in terms of advising startups and Broadway (he has always loved theater and even used to act).

“It was always a passion” he said. “When I left Apple, I was introduced to a woman and we hit it off and she said ‘we should produce something on Broadway.’” Doing a Broadway show, he says, is like managing a startup.

“You start with the creative types, you invent something, then you put a bunch of money and effort and time behind it and you give it to the public.”

At the end of the interview, Forstall thanked everyone in the audience who had participated in creating iPhone, iPad and iOS. “It's not one person or even four people,” he said. “It was hundreds and thousands of people who made it happen.”

It is no secret that Forstall was a divisive figure within Apple due to its exacting standards, demanding demeanor and abrasive management style.

He was fired in a major management shakeup in October 2012, in part due to his alleged refusal to sign an apology letter over the Apple Maps debacle, prompting CEO Tim Cook to issue a public apology to Apple customers.

Tim Cook talks assistive technologies with Accessibility evangelists

Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down with three YouTubers who are Accessibility evangelists to discuss the importance of the assistive technologies built into the company's iOS, macOS, tvOS and watchOS platforms.

James Rath, a legally blind filmmaker; Tatiana Lee, a model, actress and lifestyle blogger; and Rikki Poynter, a North Carolina-based writer and deaf awareness activist, all published their video interviews with Apple's chief on their respective YouTube channels on Wednesday.

James Rath interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXy8KcONTSs

Rikki Poynter interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6_iOVSavdE

Cook explained to Poyter what Apple is all about when it comes to Accessibility:

Apple is founded on giving people power to create things, to do things that they couldn't do without those tools. And we've always viewed accessibility as a human right. And so just like human rights are for everyone, we want our products to be accessible for everyone.

He added that accessibility should be a basic human right:

It's a basic core value of Apple. We don't make products for a particular group of people. We make products for everybody.

We feel very strongly that everyone deserves an equal opportunity and equal access. So we don't look at this thing from a return on investment point of view—I've been asked that before. The answer is no, I've never looked at that. We don't care about that.

A lot of these Accessibility features, everyone can use. With HomeKit, I use HomeKit every day and control my house with my voice.

“It’s a basic core value of Apple,” said Cook.

Tatiana Lee interview

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58ZZFUDIM0g

Lee's whole video was shot with her iPhone 7 and edited using Apple's new app Clips.

Cook did the interviews to honor Global Accessibility Awareness Day, an initiative that promotes inclusion when it comes to creating products, content and experiences for everyone.

The company is currently highlighting apps on App Store that implement Accessibility features.

Lastly, Apple posted seven inspiring videos showcasing how people with disabilities are using assistive technologies built into iPhone, iPad and Mac. For the full overview of the extensive assistive features built into Apple products, check out its dedicated Accessibility webpage.