Ten Years of iPhone


The first iPhone was released 10 years ago Thursday.

I didn’t buy one that day. I waited two days.

I did, out of curiosity, go to the AT&T store on release day – this was before there was an Apple store locally – but the line was so long I wouldn’t have been able to get into the store before I had to be at an improv show that night. In my head, I was just going because I wanted to see one; I’m not sure if I would have bought one that night or not.

This was, after all, back before carrier subsidies and installment plans and the like, if you wanted an iPhone, you paid the full, rather-substantial price of the iPhone.

Honestly, I really didn’t know why I wanted one. As a long-time Mac fan, back before Apple had the brand power it does today, there was a general trust that it would be worthwhile. But there was also a sense that there were intangibles here that I couldn’t fully appreciate. So I bought one.

And I was right. The moment it clicked, I was shopping for groceries. The store’s radio started playing Cyndi Lauper’s “All Through the Night.” There was a line in the song I couldn’t understand, and I went through this frequent cycle of wanting to know what the lyric was but being in a place where I was not able to look it up, to being in a place where I was able to look it up but not remembering that I wanted to, to hearing it again and being frustrated that I never remembered to find out what it was. And on that day, not long after I got my iPhone, I was buying groceries, and I heard the song, and I wondered what the lyric was. And I pulled out my phone, and I looked it up. And in that moment, I began to realize what this device was that I had purchased. Knowledge, unchained.

I was slower to get an iPad, suspecting that it would prove to be exactly what I thought it would be. The Apple Watch was more like the iPhone experience – I didn’t know what it was going to be for me, but I suspected it would be for me something I didn’t know, which has proven to be the case, particularly in the health area, which I didn’t think I would care about at all, but has turned out to play a big role in losing weight.

Ten years later, I’ve been through a series of iPhones. That first one still works. And it remains the bar for new technology – Good technology does exactly what you wanted it to do. Great technology does the things you never knew you needed.

Vulgar Time-Traveling iPhone


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Every Sunday morning, my iPhone becomes a time machine.

I wrote a post a couple of years ago about technology and scripture, about how changes in the way scripture is presented change the way we interact with it, and even how we think about it and what we get out of it.

By and large, I don’t see these things as good or bad, they simply are. If a person believes that scripture is divinely inspired, it’s not too far a leap to imagine that the One doing the inspiration had the foresight to know that media would change over time and prepare for it.

(On a side note, I heard someone talk about scripture in terms of fault-tolerant transmissions. We have the technology now to beam messages to spacecraft throughout the solar system in such a way that even if there is data lost in transmission, the process compensates so that what is received is still usable. I’m inclined to think that may be a good analogy — that scripture was inspired to function properly despite human language changes, errors, and international alterations.)

The latest significant change for me is interesting because it actually mitigates the effects of one of the earlier changes. To me, one of the earliest presentation changes was the beginning of the practice of translating scripture. Now, you no longer have to speak Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic to understand the stories. The number of people who can understand scripture on their own is broadened tremendously. This is a very good thing.

That very good thing, however, comes at a cost — the reach is broadened, but shades of meaning are lost. A word might mean multiple different things, and the translator has to pick which one was intended. A word might have several shades of meaning, and the new language equivalent may not capture that texture. A word might mean one thing, but be translated as a word that has shades of meaning not intended by the original. (And that doesn’t even get into cultural differences over time.)

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been discovering some of those instances where things I took for granted weren’t necessarily the case, or where there was a richness in the original I had no awareness of.

I still don’t speak the original languages, and don’t have an original text Bible anyway. And, to be honest, that first part is unlikely to ever change.

But, I do have my iPhone time machine.

I now have the ability to select any word in a passage, and see what the original-language word there was. I can read definitions for what the word meant. I can see whether it’s the same word used in another place with a similar translation.

It brings me a little bit closer to what it would have been like reading the original.

I realize there are still limitations — I’m cherry-picking the words I’m looking up, I’m still going based on someone else’s definitions, I still don’t necessarily understand the cultural context — but it’s at least helping me to think about things differently, to be aware of the richer texture.

And that, I think, is a change for the better.

Got Ink?


So this month, the shared topic for the Rocket City Bloggers’ “carnival” is “your favorite tool.”

It’s proven to be a challenging topic. What to write about?

Certainly, a leading contender would be my iPhone. I’ve written before about how life-changing it is — how, with it, I’m basically a cyborg.

There’s a good case to be made that I should write about one of the amazing Pampered Chef tools I sell, and, to be sure, they are pretty awesome. Or, along a similar vein, my Foreman grill, with which I produce much tastiness.

But the truth is, as hard as it is to imagine now, I’ve lived without those things.

I couldn’t imagine living without a pen.

I have at least one with me always, and have for as long as I can remember. Back when I was starting my newspaper career, not only was my iPhone unimaginable, even a cell phone was years away. But I always carried a pen.

Today, I carry three. I’ve always carried at least two, in case one died, and now added a third one for when I need a different color. The exact type has changed over the years — for a while, one was a disposable fountain pen, and another was purely dedicated to signing books. In general, I like my pens cheap enough to lose, but not too cheap to write with comfortably. A smooth rollerball is vital.

Over the years, some of my pens’ duties have been usurped. When I started college, I would compose in ink. Now, that’s almost unheard of, as the way I’ve written has changed. Today, even just simple note-taking is done on my phone far more often than scratch paper.

But ink still has a power that a digital device doesn’t. When I write a check or sign a credit card receipt, ink gives the paper the authority of my name. I could write the most moving letter I could come up with in e-mail, but there’s still something intimate and meaningful about conveying the same message in handwriting, particularly as the written word becomes more and more rare.

As a writer, it’s easy to see the pen as a totem for myself, a physical representation of my identity. But it’s more than just a symbol — whether it’s a signature on a check or a heartfelt note, ink still captures and embodies “me” in a way few things can.

The Living Room Frontier


Sputnik iPhone case by Zazzle. Click image for more info.

Let’s get this out of the way to begin with — I love the iPhone. Like, a lot. OK?

But …

It’s also what’s wrong with the world. As Paul Simon wrote, “You are the burden of my generation. I sure do love you, but let’s get that straight.”

Yesterday was October 4.

For a lot of people, myself included, it was the day Apple made the iPhone 4S announcement.

For some other people, myself included, it was the anniversary of the beginning of the Space Age, the date on which, in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik.

Fifty-four years apart, two technological high-water marks.

Two technological high-water marks showing just how much the world has changed.

Back then, the frontier was the future. The goal was to go — to make the world a smaller place by bringing it closer together. Innovation was rockets to reach for the stars, and cars that looked like rockets to travel the country and airplanes to do it faster. The greatest manifestation of man’s ability was a space program that would reach into the unknown. As Kennedy would say five years later, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

We live today in an age in which we instead organize and measure the best of our energies and skills around the iPhone and its like.

The goal today is still to make our worlds smaller, not by connecting it, but by disconnecting it. We want better telephones and better televisions and better networks so that I can experience the world without leaving the comfort of my home.

Today, our frontier is no longer the unknown, but the living room.

I love my iPhone.

But I regret not living in a world in which our goal is not to increase our comfort, but to say, as Kennedy did, “And, therefore, as we set sail, we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

Where is your frontier?

Still Crazy After All These Years


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I remember when Steve Jobs came back.

I was working in Indianola  then, and was still very much one of the Mac faithful, despite it being a very dark time.

There was no reason that his return should have brought hope. Apple was, in fact, in bad shape. (Wired’s famous “Pray” cover was during this era — after Steve’s return, even.) And Steve’s latest venture, NeXT, while apparently technically competent, wasn’t exactly revolutionizing the world. (Nor yet was his side venture, a little company he’d bought from George Lucas named Pixar.)

But bring hope it did.

At first, the signs Apple was different, was more Apple than it had been being, were superficial. For all its grammatical offensiveness, “Think Different” just felt right. As did the underdog-fodder “Here’s To The Crazy Ones.”

And then came the more concrete signs. It was easy to believe change had arrived when the first iMacs appeared, with their convention-defying bubble shape and friendly colors. But we knew things were different when that same design aesthetic started appearing in everything from power strips to kitchen appliances. Apple was relevant again.

Over the next decade, relevant would become an understatement. Apple not only influenced, it shaped and eventually dominated. The company never returned to its first-Steve-era place as the leader of the home computer market. Instead, it made that fact unimportant. Rather than try to recapture that particular market, Apple simply repeated the same trick — creating new markets, and dominating them. And, this time, it learned lessons that had cost it the PC market, and avoided the same mistakes.

We’d been mocked. Now, the Apple logo was ubiquitous, and Apple became the most valuable company in the world. For the faithful, it was vindication. For Steve, I can only imagine.

I have confidence in Tim Cook. He has demonstrated that he can provide strong business leadership for Apple.

And right now, Steve remains on as chairman at Apple. His voice is still present; his insight still contributed.

And this is good.

Because while I have no question that Apple and its current leadership will have no problem maintaining the same levels of business acumen and technological genius, it’s the intangible I worry about.

Steve’s greatest unparalleled and world-changing skill since his return has been the ability to see what is, and to see what it could be. To look at a Walkman and see an iPod. To look at a cell phone and see an iPhone. Apple’s future is ultimately going to rest in whether the company can continue that almost-counter-intuitive innovation.

The news may have struck me differently on a different day, but yesterday, after hearing about the failure of a Soyuz rocket that morning and some of the vagaries of my personal life, it hit me hard when I heard on my way to church last night that Steve had resigned.

And it ultimately came down to this —

The world seems a little less magic.

On A LOST Highway


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I loved LOST.

I loved its ability to make you wonder.

OK, we know there ARE polar bears on the tropical island. But exactly WHY are there polar bears on the island? Everything was presented matter-of-factly, leaving the audience to wonder exactly what made the highly improbably possible.

And that’s why I love the car on the mountain.

It’s far and away the most interesting thing on my hiking trail — a dilapidated white car, sitting several yards off of the Sugartree Trail on Green Mountain in Huntsville.

It makes no sense at all. Having walked the area many many many times. I have no idea how it got there. And, “how” aside, I have no idea why it got there. It’s completely random, and possibly the closest thing to a LOST mystery I’ve experienced in real life.

I’ve tried treating it as a writing prompt, trying to come up with a backstory that would make it make sense. And I struggle to come up with anything I really like, anything I could really believe, that doesn’t involve someone putting it there to make people wonder why it’s there.

So, after years of walking past it, I remain as clueless as I was the first time.

And, in the age when my “Pocketful of Omniscience” iPhone can give me the answers to just about any question I can think to ask instantaneously, I love the car on the mountain for reminding me that there are some things I just don’t get to know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking My Kodachrome Away


Heather had a great idea, so I’m totally copying it.

She decided that she was going to dedicate the month of April in her 365project to black and white pictures.

My 365project photos have become sort of routine, so I thought that might spice mine up a bit, too.

First, it should be fun.

I’m old enough that for the bulk of my newspaper career, I was working in black and white. With film, no less. Remember that?

Back then, I would buy rolls of black and white for my personal use as well, just because I enjoyed working with it.

Since making the switch to digital, black-and-white has become a post-capture processing option, rather than a pre-picture commitment like it was with film.

If I think a picture would look good in black and white, I can change it. But I don’t have to tailor my pictures around the format like I used to.

Making the April commitment sort of simulates that — yes, my camera will let the pictures be in color, but to use them in the project, I have to take something I would want to be in black and white.

Also, I’m hoping it improves my photography in another way.

As the project goes on, I become increasingly reliant on the cool tricks my iPhone can do with photo software, a lot of which has to do with color enhancement. Take those away, and I’m back closer to just having to take good pictures, not do good photo editing.

Hopefully, this will be the photography equivalent of going acoustic for me. Strip away the fancy production, get back to the basics.

Back to seeing the world in black and white.


Here’s Heather’s post about her project.

And here’s an example of the photo-processing power of the iPhone. (Follow the cut for explanation.)

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