Apple software engineer details development of original iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2014
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published on Tuesday, Apple senior software engineer Greg Christie offers a detailed look at the development process that culminated in the first iPhone.

iPhone
Late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs presenting the original iPhone in 2007.


Christie tells the tale of how an ultimatum from late Apple cofounder Steve Jobs pushed the engineer and his team to create what would become the first iPhone, the WSJ reports.

According to Christie, his team had been working on a "software vision" for the handheld when Jobs gave him two weeks to come up with something before the project was assigned to another group. What the engineering team developed would later become iPhone OS and ultimately the current iOS.

Along with "swipe to unlock," touch-based inputs and gestures, Christie's team created what can be considered the blueprint for modern smartphone operating systems.

At least some of the ideas came from Christie's work with the Newton PDA team, which the engineer was part of after joining Apple in 1996. The engineer was offered the chance to work on the iPhone project in 2004 by former executive Scott Forstall, who at the time said Apple was developing a phone/media player hybrid with touch capabilities.

After months of highly secret work on "project purple," including bi-weekly meetings with Jobs himself, Christie and his "shockingly small" team came up with a solution worthy of approval. The idea had to be pitched first to Jobs, then to Apple board director Bill Campbell and finally to Jony Ive.

Jobs became increasingly excited about the iPhone's software possibilities, Christie said, and began to add his own narrative with each successive presentation.

"His excitement for it was boundless," said Christie.

The article goes on to detail the steps all employees working on the project had to take to keep the device secret. Jobs reportedly told work could only be done in a secluded area of an employee's house and all images of the phone had to be encrypted.

The story comes ahead of the scheduled start date for Apple's second California patent trial against Samsung. Much of the litigation revolves around software patents Christie himself had at least some hand in creating.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    shogunshogun Posts: 362member
    Working under pressure really can make peoe think creatively and cut through the crap. That jobs fellow was an evil genius. And by evil I mean awesome.
  • Reply 2 of 25
    irelandireland Posts: 17,798member
    "including bi-weekly meetings with Jobs himself"

    No shit, Sherlock.
  • Reply 3 of 25

    Years of work and it took Google months to cobble together a copy.  Apple should have just waited for Rubin to come up with these "inevitable" and "obvious" ideas and then just copy Android.  /s

  • Reply 4 of 25
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    ireland wrote: »
    "including bi-weekly meetings with Jobs himself"

    No shit, Sherlock.

    In what way is it self-evident and obvious that a SW engineer would have bi-weekly meetings with Steve Jobs that you'd have to respond with "No shit, Sherlock!"?
  • Reply 5 of 25
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by eponymous View Post

     

    Years of work and it took Google months to cobble together a copy.  Apple should have just waited for Rubin to come up with these "inevitable" and "obvious" ideas and then just copy Android.  /s


     

    Andy "I guess we're not going to ship that phone" Rubin.

  • Reply 6 of 25
    sudonymsudonym Posts: 233member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

     

     

     

    Jobs gave him two weeks to come up with something

    ...

     

    Cristie's team created what can be considered the blueprint for modern smartphone operating systems.

     


    Apple can innovate on a dime, turning out the blueprint for the modern smartphone operating system in only two weeks!  It took Google longer than that to make Android, which is a stolen OS.

     

    Can't innovate my ASS!

  • Reply 7 of 25
    65c81665c816 Posts: 136member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by eponymous View Post

     

    Years of work and it took Google months to cobble together a copy.  Apple should have just waited for Rubin to come up with these "inevitable" and "obvious" ideas and then just copy Android.  /s


    Yes, yes and fucking YES!  I cannot understand how these idiots can survive with the kind of logic and thinking they have.

  • Reply 8 of 25
    foadfoad Posts: 717member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SudoNym View Post

     

    Apple can innovate on a dime, turning out the blueprint for the modern smartphone operating system in only two weeks!  It took Google longer than that to make Android, which is a stolen OS.

     

    Can't innovate my ASS!


     

    That is sort of a half truth as far as Apple in concerned. The core OS was the result of years of work. I don't want to discredit the insane work that was done, but the underpinnings were there. If you have a solid foundation, it gives you more freedom to do something even better. It's the secret recipe at Apple. Constantly building on their experience.

     

    As far as Android goes, I think they had a longer term roadmap that included what eventually became the initial release version of Android. They just accelerated the schedule. They did heavily borrow from iOS though. It's easier to know where you're going if you have someone showing you the way.

  • Reply 9 of 25
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    foad wrote: »
    That is sort of a half truth as far as Apple in concerned. The core OS was the result of years of work. I don't want to discredit the insane work that was done, but the underpinnings were there. If you have a solid foundation, it gives you more freedom to do something even better. It's the secret recipe at Apple. Constantly building on their experience.

    As far as Android goes, I think they had a longer term roadmap that included what eventually became the initial release version of Android. They just accelerated the schedule. They did heavily borrow from iOS though. It's easier to know where you're going if you have someone showing you the way.

    1) He's trolling.

    2) Their iOS came from Mac OS X which came from NeXTSTEP which was built upon BSD and other open-source code for several decades. It's very impressive. I think DED had written an article on it on his Roughly Drafted site before he joined AI's writing staff.

    3) IMO, one of the best results from iOS is Apple having put so much effort into making a more efficient codebase to run on that slower HW that it can then be put back into Mac OS X with wonderful results. Mac OS X was already ahead of every other consumer OS but iOS kept accelerating it. I don't think Mac OS X would be nearly as good today as it would be in some parallel universe where Apple never split its resources from Mac OS X to make iOS.
  • Reply 10 of 25

    I had said this in a previous thread - I wonder how the battle would have panned out if Android was released before Jobs unveiled the iPhone.

     

    Google would beat their drum and tout how advanced their Blackberry-inspired OS was, everybody would be in awe.

     

    Then Jobs unveils the iPhone catching Google (along with everybody else) flatfooted.

     

    Android 2.0 would then be a direct copy of the iPhone OS, thereby showing where the inspiration came from.

  • Reply 11 of 25
    swiftswift Posts: 436member

    Well, you know, if they had released the Google phone before Apple's, it would have just been another crummy Blackberry. That's what they copied first. Then the stopped and thought about what to do next. Why not something that looks like an iPhone?

  • Reply 12 of 25
    65c816 wrote: »
    Yes, yes and fucking YES!  I cannot understand how these idiots can survive with the kind of logic and thinking they have.
    Simple, they shit with their mouth and put the head into the toilet bowl and eat those shit afterward
  • Reply 13 of 25
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,686member
    Wasn't Christie a designer? A ux guy?
  • Reply 14 of 25
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,686member
    Answer: yes he was. Head of human interface. Makes sense that Jobs would discuss with that group first and not a random software engineer. Weird reporting on this.
  • Reply 15 of 25
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,675member
    solipsismx wrote: »
    1) He's trolling.

    I wish he'd stop doing that.
    2) Their iOS came from Mac OS X which came from NeXTSTEP which was built upon BSD and other open-source code for several decades. It's very impressive. I think DED had written an article on it on his Roughly Drafted site before he joined AI's writing staff.

    He wrote many on that topic, here's one that's related, but not the article you had in mind, I think:

    http://www.roughlydrafted.com/2012/01/03/the-next-ten-years-of-mac-os-x/

    He also did a comparable thing on tablets:
    The inside track on Apple's tablet: a history of tablet computing
    3) IMO, one of the best results from iOS is Apple having put so much effort into making a more efficient codebase to run on that slower HW that it can then be put back into Mac OS X with wonderful results. Mac OS X was already ahead of every other consumer OS but iOS kept accelerating it. I don't think Mac OS X would be nearly as good today as it would be in some parallel universe where Apple never split its resources from Mac OS X to make iOS.

    Excellent point. OSX has indeed evolved so much. There's so much refinement and optimisation done, something MS will likely never do, or understand why this is a good thing to do in the first place.
  • Reply 16 of 25
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,361moderator
    Here's the article without the pay wall:

    http://online.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10001424052702303949704579461783150723874-lMyQjAxMTA0MDIwNTEyNDUyWj

    They mocked up the original iPhone using an old G3 to simulate the speed.

    This is also another example where Steve asked for innovative ideas from his staff. A lot of people have the notion that Steve himself came up with all the ideas but he acted as co-ordinator and overruled some of them. There are other examples of this with Jobs interacting with a copywriter for the iPad ads and the Mac UI team:

    "“Well, what do you want?” Vincent shot back. “You’ve not been able to tell me what you want.”
    “I don’t know,” Jobs said. “You have to bring me something new. Nothing you’ve shown me is even close.”
    Vincent argued back and suddenly Jobs went ballistic. “He just started screaming at me,” Vincent recalled. Vincent could be volatile himself, and the volleys escalated.
    When Vincent shouted, “You’ve got to tell me what you want,” Jobs shot back, “You’ve got to show me some stuff, and I’ll know it when I see it.”"

    "He looked at the title bars—the headers that run across the top of windows and documents—that his team of software developers had designed for the original Macintosh and decided he didn’t like them. He forced the developers to do another version, and then another, about twenty iterations in all, insisting on one tiny tweak after another, and when the developers protested that they had better things to do he shouted, “Can you imagine looking at that every day? It’s not just a little thing. It’s something we have to do right.”"

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/11/14/111114fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

    A lot of the people who came up with the original ideas for the iPhone software and hardware will still be at Apple and they deserve to be credited for their roles. Without Steve, it might be like shooting a movie without a director but all the parts are there to keep making movies.
  • Reply 17 of 25
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    BUT according to Tony Fadell's bio on Nest's website he claims was responsible for the first 3 generations of the iPhone. :???:
  • Reply 18 of 25
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,686member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post





    "“Well, what do you want?” Vincent shot back. “You’ve not been able to tell me what you want.”

    “I don’t know,” Jobs said. “You have to bring me something new. Nothing you’ve shown me is even close.”

    Vincent argued back and suddenly Jobs went ballistic. “He just started screaming at me,” Vincent recalled. Vincent could be volatile himself, and the volleys escalated.

    When Vincent shouted, “You’ve got to tell me what you want,” Jobs shot back, “You’ve got to show me some stuff, and I’ll know it when I see it.”"



    "He looked at the title bars—the headers that run across the top of windows and documents—that his team of software developers had designed for the original Macintosh and decided he didn’t like them. He forced the developers to do another version, and then another, about twenty iterations in all, insisting on one tiny tweak after another, and when the developers protested that they had better things to do he shouted, “Can you imagine looking at that every day? It’s not just a little thing. It’s something we have to do right.”"



    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/11/14/111114fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all



    A lot of the people who came up with the original ideas for the iPhone software and hardware will still be at Apple and they deserve to be credited for their roles. Without Steve, it might be like shooting a movie without a director but all the parts are there to keep making movies.

     

    You get that from that ( and I agree but Greg Christie didn't write a line of code, and wasn't the only UI guy either - a lot of the really technical stuff happened quietly in people's offices) - but I also worry that there isn't a CEO at Apple shouting at people for not being pixel perfect. Clearly standards have fallen, would Jobs have allowed the shadow buttons in the iOS 7.1?

  • Reply 19 of 25
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    asdasd wrote: »
    You get that from that ( and I agree but Greg Christie didn't write a line of code, and wasn't the only UI guy either - a lot of the really technical stuff happened quietly in people's offices) - but I also worry that there isn't a CEO at Apple shouting at people for not being pixel perfect. Clearly standards have fallen, would Jobs have allowed the shadow buttons in the iOS 7.1?
    Jobs is dead. People need to quit asking what he would/wouldn't do. And stop re-writing history to make it look like everything done on his watch was perfect. Quite honestly I don't care if something is pixel perfect if it's ugly and I think a lot of iOS 6 & prior was ugly.
  • Reply 20 of 25
    johncmgjohncmg Posts: 11member

    Actually Google was dropping hints at their new phone that was very Blackberry looking and suddenly switched gears with Eric Schmidt (via the Apple Board) got a look and the iPhone.

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