There was a time when digital music players like the Creative Nomad were gaining adoption, but people were still absorbing the shift to digital music.
I worked at RealNetworks/Rhapsody music and there was a mysterious meeting where a guy pitched what would eventually come to market as the iPod. The deal didn't go through and he was latter employed by Apple.
I understand that sometimes inventions will be invented nearly simultaneously by several distinct groups... and Apple may have already had a prototype device for years in their labs waiting for the BOM to hit the right size, price, and capabilities... But who were these visionaries that Apple organized, packaged their visions, and helped delivered their wares?
Apple does an amazing job of marketing their myths and we've got the well known brands of Woz, Jobs, Ive... It's hard to pierce that veil.
It's a hard problem to solve. Currently, I still haven't found product market fit yet - with TheyMadeThat's most apparent weakness being the lack of data, but I still can't fully let go because making people aware of who made their stuff matters. People know it's a problem and they like the idea of solving it. Unfortunately, people do not love my solution. Not enough people loved other higher profile solutions like Makerbase from Anil Dash and Gina Trapani either. I don't know to fix it.
Interesting features aside from associating people with contributing to the "iPhones" of the world:
* Seeing the relationships between different things i.e.
-- evolution (predecessors/successors),
-- variations (https://theymadethat.com/things/6wy/apple-macintosh/show_ver...),
-- parts (https://theymadethat.com/things/l1t/reddit/show_parts#focus_...)
* Who used what as tools
Feedback is welcome. Feel free to not be nice. It tends to be the most useful feedback.
Currently I'm using it to build a Ycombinator Census
1. Seeing a list of people associated with a product is kind of useful, but I specifically want to know what their role was / what they did, vs. just a generic quote.
2. I like the idea of having versions under a larger high-level product (like Mac → Apple Macintosh 128K) but this doesn't seem to be expressed in the navigation anywhere when you're on a specific version. There should be some form of breadcrumbing / indicating the parent.
3. I'd reconsider the tabs as distinct pages vs. a single page, Wikipedia style where the tabs just act as anchors. Possibly use an accordion pattern with a preview for each section. Right now I have to click through 8 different tabs to see if there's possibly content which is usually pretty sparse.
4. Product pages should look distinct from the homepage. The hero section with the tagline / search field is really prominent (and autofocused) when you're looking at a specific product / version. The main focus should be the product title, and the header should be secondary.
5. Not crazy about the quotes as the lead-in for the product pages. It feels like it should be a succinct summary of what the product was. Information like release date, size of team, etc... should be above the fold. I think Wikipedia is again instructive.
6. As a more meta comment, lack of data is definitely an issue and at the same it seems tough to encourage people to contribute data to a (sorry) unknown entity. I tried to edit an article to see how the data's being captured but didn't want to create an account — are you familiar with Wikidata, RDF, Linked Data, etc...? If you can't find this data already in a structured way, I've spent some time parsing wikitext somewhat successfully and if you look at e.g. the Credits section https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macintosh_128K#Credits you might be able to bootstrap some data (or at least provide draft pages that someone can then vet / fill out).
7. From what I understand, scraping LinkedIn is pretty challenging, but could you gather data from there / cross-reference to infer who worked on what products? LinkedIn specifically has "Projects" and "Creators", but I don't know what its adoption is like. Basically vs. just expecting me (the general user) to crowdsource this for you, what initial work have you put in.
> Seeing a list of people associated with a product is kind of useful, but I specifically want to know what their role was / what they did, vs. just a generic quote
Yeah this is one of the changes that's on my todo list. The data is there for most people but you have to dig-in. I'll hopefully fix this soon.
> I like the idea of having versions under a larger high-level product (like Mac → Apple Macintosh 128K) but this doesn't seem to be expressed in the navigation anywhere
The reason that there currently isn't a breadcrumb is because things can be versions of more than one thing. Unfortunately I don't have an example on the top of my head. Not sure how to form navigation based on that yet.
> Right now I have to click through 8 different tabs to see if there's possibly content which is usually pretty sparse
Yeah this is another known problem. I'll experiment with your suggestion.
> Not crazy about the quotes as the lead-in for the product pages. It feels like it should be a succinct summary of what the product was. Information like release date, size of team
This is up to creator of the entry. I only chose quotes since it's a product description by the creator and it's easier to find and less generic
> I tried to edit an article to see how the data's being captured but didn't want to create an account — are you familiar with Wikidata, RDF, Linked Data, etc...?
I have versioning integrated but I did not expose it to the UI yet, until this changes or somehow a community forms I don't see myself removing the signup requirement anytime soon.
> but could you gather data from there / cross-reference to infer who worked on what products?
I've seen potential sources, however both the quality and quantity of data is lacking. After I fix the UI issues that you've mentioned, I may do more work on this area again one day. As for Linkedin and similar sources like Crunchbase, even if there weren't any issues related to data scraping; they still wouldn't be good enough to use. At best you just get a person's employment history and not what they actually worked on.
The UI, especially for mobile, is a mess. Thanks for helping me fix it.
There were many music players around at the time.
The invention was itunes -- an easy way to buy music. And that invention required cutting deals with all the music studios to put their catalog online.
That was new.
Of course it had to link up with a nice ecosystem, sound, software etc.
Firewire also made it much faster to upload music.
Also, the article refers to lithium-ion/lithium polymer batteries as lithium batteries. This is wrong, as lithium batteries are what you call primary cells with lithium anodes (e.g. button cells), not secondary cells like are used in a cellphone.
It's distressing that Scientific American's editors think pointing out that the iPhone was built of extant technologies is relevant, especially with respect to the topic of invention.
I'm still lacking a ton of data... but anyone is able to capture that history now: https://theymadethat.com/things/svj/taskforce/show_parts
It's not limited to just software
Innovation happens in small steps, building on work of others and adding a few new things and experiences. The iPhone is no different but this article is not really worth the read.
No doubt it popularised a lot of existing technology, and arguably combined some of that technology in a way that hadn't been done before. All the same, that reasoning could apply to the second version of the iPhone. Was that an "invention" too?
 Apple didn't invent multi-touch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t35HXAjNW6s. I believe it was the first to build a mobile UI entirely around it.
1) battery: the iPhone was basically a giant battery strapped to a logic board. No one had designed a phone like this, ever.
2) capacitive multi-touch with inertia: capacitive touch screens existed, but the software for using them was really bad (see windows mobile 5 as the leading example).
3) non-WAP browser: all phones prior to the iPhone had a wap browser. The consensus knowledge in the industry was that doing full web on mobile was still years, maybe decades away. Apple came in and rendered the full New York Times on mobile and it changed the world.
4) App Store: before Apple, carriers had an App Store that was garbage or you sideloaded software. That was it. The App Store changed the world, not technically but politically. Finally users could get good software from their phones over the air.
I could go on for days. This doesn’t even touch carrier distribution, call quality, or any part of the OS stack which was basically black magic at the time. The iPhone really changed the world.
But the list of things I'd have to give up for a first gen iPhone (not even counting the mandatory AT&T bill in the US) made it a no-go:
No copy/paste. No third party apps (I regularly used mine to stream Shoutcast stations in the car on my cheap unlimited 3G data before it became a cash cow to be milked by the carriers). No 3G radio at all actually. No GPS. No multitasking/backgrounding apps. No MMS (which was doubly important if you didn't have 3rd party IM apps).
I was in a geek dilemma. Apple fixed the UI but lacked most of what made my smartphone "smart" at the time. Likewise, all of the ones with more capabilities lacked the smooth UI and usability improvements of the iPhone.
I'm just glad that in subsequent years Apple slowly added in functionality while their competitors got the message that usability was important as well.
Because of this, Apple was able to develop products the end-user wanted to buy, rather than the products the carriers wanted to sell.
That's incorrect. Opera Mobile launched in 2000 and was a full HTML renderer. I had it on a succession of Nokia E-series smartphones in that era. Yes, you could run apps before appstores existed...
Then in 2005 Opera Mini was released which used server-side rendering for feature-phones that couldn't run Mobile.
Yes, I remember getjar.com but that's not comparable to the app store. Pretending they're analogous is facetious at best.
Well, almost all. There were non-WAP browsers (Nokia, Windows phones, etc), but still crappy and limited at their html rendering.
At least until websites started redirecting iPhones to their m.domain.com. There was so much initial promise for mobile devices to offer a desktop-equivalent experience that was ruined by site operators insisting on treating iPhone (and later Android) browsers as less capable.
3) WAP ... heck that was irrelevant since phones started having color screens. Browsers in the older Blackberries and Windows Mobile phones of the time were not WAP, but pre-WebKit applications that only implemented a subset of HTML.
4) Microsoft wanted to treat phones like it treated PCs - it would collect on software licenses. Hence it didn't see the device as something it controlled beyond selling an OS license for it. This made sense before Internet was cheap and fast on mobile devices.
iPhone was definitely a start of a major new era. I think the most significant thing is that iPhone was able to more or less end up as the boss of its own platform in the manufactuer-carrier relationship. Before iPhone, the OS was seen as something that would have to be approved by the carrier and device manufacturer.
For practical application, the one that invented it is the one that first offered it to me for sale. Kind of like battery technology, as the industry iterates over various chemistries. Yeah, yeah, your new tech is going to blow storage wide open...just like the last folks whose names I now forget. But until I can buy one for my phone, my RV house battery, or a pack for my electric car, you might as well have invented unicorns.
Who invented the car? We had engines, we had wheels, we had drive trains. But Benz was the first to glue them all together into a mode of transportation. But wait, Copeland put a steam engine on a bicycle two years before Benz got his patent (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copeland_steam_bicycle). And, frankly, all Benz did was glue an engine to an early tricycle design. So "invented" sometimes strikes me as not the best word to describe "who invented...?"
The heavens opened up and the truth was shown to me. I immediately realized, they didn't have to suck, after all. What a revelation.
I agree that Windows Phone was pretty great (especially 8 and 10)
Touch screens existed and confounded people for decades. Just watch the average person use a touch screen ATM. Still not great.
It all seems so obvious in retrospect because iPhones have defined so much of how everything works now.
The original iPhone was a product no one else had the vision or balls to build.
Apple moved the world to make it succeed. No one else would have.
The article is arguing that technology is iterative, and that great inventions are often built on many other great inventions.
The article is focusing on the iphone as an example of breakthrough technology.. but the question implied by the article is whether or not it's great because of the inventors ability to build on a larger than average amount of previous work.. and ends with the conclusion that greater freedom of information allows for breakthroughs, not "genius" lone-wolf inventors.
Apple did an excellent job of bringing together a lot of existing technology into a viable consumer product, but it is still important to note that much of that tech was powered by state-funded initiatives, instead of Silicon Valley, VC-funded projects.
The iPhone was a watershed moment in tech that propelled Apple to be a trillion dollar company, yet the iPhone team is obscure to me. The Mac team has had how many books and articles about them?
It just came out a year ago.
You can also try my user-editable site (https://theymadethat.com/things/k4z/iphone) where I aim for the same goal but with a different approach. The iPhone entry still needs a lot of work.
- convincing mobile providers to provide data plans
- Wrapping up the price of the phone in the data plan (i.e. providing financing)
- distribution with their own stores
- eventually the app store
- the itunes app also had to convince music studios to put their catalog online and price them uniformly
But not in the reinforcing way. The cell plan lets you download songs over the air. That lines up the two business deals you made.
The only real upgrades were a cellular modem and a little bit prettier case.
Saying apple "invented" modern smartphones is a bit like saying Tesla invented electric cars. No they didn't, they just made a really good one that is very popular.
Much later, when I saw Apple and Android smartphones, I could not understand how anybody could stand the onscreen keyboards. But the truth is that the multitouch hardware allowed to progress these systems far enough that they would surpass earlier tiny physical keyboards.
Apple's chief invention wasn't hardware. It was Apple's digital infrastructure that made the iPhone intoxicatingly can't-live-without-it. (Unfortunately the SciAm article missed this completely.)
TFA article claims something similar: it was apple that took a bunch of ideas and made it into something people wanted to actually use. I, and I doubt many people here, would have a good enough vision and understanding of what people actually wanted.
I find us in a strange new era of people using the past as a way to diminish the now. I grow tired of people pushing the notion that we today must pay for the sins and attribute success to past generations.
If we go far enough back I am sure if the wheel had never been invented we would have none of what we have today and would still be smashing rocks around in a cave.
This looks like a good description of Samsung DeX.