Ex-Apple engineer explains why the first iPhone didn't have copy and paste

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in iPhone
The very first iPhone that was released in 2007 didn't actually have any sort of copy and paste functionality, and a former Apple engineer may have finally explained why.

Credit: Apple
Credit: Apple


Ken Kocienda joined Apple in 2001 and was a key engineer on the team that developed the first iPhone. On Sunday, Kocienda shared an amusing anecdote detailing why the first-generation Apple handset didn't have copy and paste.

According to Kocienda, the short answer is that the team didn't have time to "do it right" before the first iPhone shipped. The former Apple engineer said that he was busy working on the device's keyboard, autocorrect, and text functionality.

The original iPhone didn't have cut/copy/paste. Infamous! The quickest explanation is that I didn't have time to do it right. I had too much keyboard, autocorrection, and text system work to do. The design team didn't have time either. So we passed on the feature for 1.0. https://t.co/SLncIxohkk

— Ken Kocienda (@kocienda)


Eventually, sometime after the iPhone's debut, the team got to work on copy and paste functionality. Kocienda added that the "magnifying text loupe," which would zoom in on the text a user had their finger on, was his idea.

Another interesting tidbit Kocienda shared had to do with the text system on the first iPhone. Specifically, the engineer said that WebKit powered virtually all of the text.

"About the text system, all editable styled text on the original iPhone was backed by WebKit," he said. "The system had itty bitty web pages sprinkled here and there. Every multiline UITextView was its own web page."

Kocienda said he was well-prepared for that task, since he added text editing to WebKit between 2003 and 2005.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    Anilu_777Anilu_777 Posts: 552member
    Kocienda is a genius! I’ve seen more in his team’s work on the original iPhone. When we use them today we can’t imagine what it must have been like to have to invent that from bits and pieces and ideas. 
    wonkothesaneAlex_VbloggerblogBeatsappleinsideruserlolliverCluntBaby92watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 26
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 2,474member
    He’s being modest. Copy/paste had many challenges from content type to security between apps. Just as Apple explained, they solved the authentication between apps by assuming the user’s finger to be the authentication key. 
    lolliverCluntBaby92watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 26
    sirdirsirdir Posts: 189member
    He’s being modest. Copy/paste had many challenges from content type to security between apps. Just as Apple explained, they solved the authentication between apps by assuming the user’s finger to be the authentication key. 

    As there were no 3rd party apps back then, that can’t have been the greatest concern…
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 26
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,580member
    sirdir said:
    As there were no 3rd party apps back then, that can’t have been the greatest concern…
    The App Store was introduced in 2008. Copy and paste came with iOS 3.0 in 2009. 
    Beatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 26
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    lolliverCluntBaby92bloggerblogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 26
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,580member
    Beats said:
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    And then they drag out the lawsuit beyond a point where it has become unimaginable that these things weren't obvious or self-evident at the time. 
    BeatslolliverCluntBaby92bloggerblogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 26
    Beats said:
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    Imagine how the inventor of the wheel has to feel.
    alezvicBeatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 26
    shaminoshamino Posts: 528member
    Beats said:
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.
    Apple may have been the first to deploy these technologies on a consumer device, but they didn't invent it.

    Before there was any iPad/iPhone, we were all fascinated by multitouch UI demos produced by Jeff Han (researcher at NYU and founder of Perceptive Pixel, which was since acquired by Microsoft).  For example:

    I don't think Apple ever used Jeff Han's code, and modern multitouch display panels use a completely different technology from what Han was using, but I can guarantee that lots of important people there (like the rest of us) saw these videos and drew inspiration from them.  Including swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom operations.
    edited June 2022 williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 26
    alezvicalezvic Posts: 3member
    Beats said:

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    A huge corporation copying another big corporation, cry me a river. Kocienda got paid by Apple and kept being paid regardless. 

    The real sad thing is when a big corporation copies a small team of devs who seamingly get their main source of revenue destroyed overnight.
    Remove.bg, Camo, Pillbox from the top of my head, this WWDC alone. 
    Watson, f.lux, Growl, Duet and Luna Display and many other before. 









    muthuk_vanalingamwilliamlondon
  • Reply 10 of 26
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 2,006member
    Wish they would bring back the text loupe and all the other text interaction stuff.   Lot harder now to actually edit text on the phone.  It tries to be too smart for itself.  
    williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 26
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,038member
    Beats said:
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    Having a Google insider on the inside didn’t help either, Apple lead over the competition would have been 4 to 5 years. As it was the big five didn’t do anything (Microsoft, Nokia, Blackberry, Sony-Ericsson, Motorola) were all in denial for most of the first three years after the original iPhone came out.
    edited June 2022 Beatsmangakattenwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 26
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    Beats said:
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    Imagine how the inventor of the wheel has to feel.

    He’s probably crying in his cave.

    alezvic said:
    Beats said:

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    A huge corporation copying another big corporation, cry me a river. Kocienda got paid by Apple and kept being paid regardless. 

    The real sad thing is when a big corporation copies a small team of devs who seamingly get their main source of revenue destroyed overnight.
    Remove.bg, Camo, Pillbox from the top of my head, this WWDC alone. 
    Watson, f.lux, Growl, Duet and Luna Display and many other before. 


    Stealing trillions from Apple and undercutting them with knockoffs is sad. It’s easy to be a brat and take everything for granted after Apple did all the hard work claiming it’s no big deal. Reminds me of when iKnockoff morons claim “well, that was common sense”.  Why wasn’t it common sense in 1985? Why wasn’t it common sense in 2005 to BlackBerry, Samsung, Nokia and Microsoft?


    shamino said:
    Beats said:
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.
    Apple may have been the first to deploy these technologies on a consumer device, but they didn't invent it.

    Before there was any iPad/iPhone, we were all fascinated by multitouch UI demos produced by Jeff Han (researcher at NYU and founder of Perceptive Pixel, which was since acquired by Microsoft).  For example:

    I don't think Apple ever used Jeff Han's code, and modern multitouch display panels use a completely different technology from what Han was using, but I can guarantee that lots of important people there (like the rest of us) saw these videos and drew inspiration from them.  Including swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom operations.

    Dismissing the hard work of Steve Jobs and Apple engineers because crappy resistive touch screens existed is ludicrous. I was heavy into futuristic cell phones in 2007 and had the highest rated Windows Mobile Phone and it was absolutely garbage compared to what iPhone brought. None of the ideas of Windows Mobile carried over to iPhone and it had none of the cool iPhone inventions like pinch to zoom. There were arrows everywhere in the UI and there was a “calibrate” setting I had to revisit every few days. This was a super high-tech phone in 2007, mobile keyboard and all!
    stompymangakattenlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 26
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    danox said:
    Beats said:
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    Having a Google insider on the inside didn’t help, their lead over the competition would have been 4 to 5 years. As it was the big five didn’t do anything (Microsoft, Nokia, Blackberry, Sony-Ericsson, Motorola) were all in denial for most of the first three years after the original iPhone came out.

    DEFINITELY. At the time Apple felt betrayed by everyone except Google so you would often see Steve Jobs praising and giving free promotion to Google. Saying they were the best and all.

    Android releasing on all major networks just a year later confused the public and is the reason many iKnockoff morons don’t know Apple invented the iPhone and Androids were knockoffs developed to steal user data.

    I had some iKnockoff moron tell me Apple copied Android because the OS Android was being developed before 2007. That OS of course, never released.




    lolliverbloggerblogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 26
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,580member
    chadbag said:
    Wish they would bring back the text loupe and all the other text interaction stuff. 
    You should update your phone. 

    The text loupe was inexplicably removed in iOS 13, but has been back since iOS 15. 
    williamlondonlolliverbonobobwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 26
    shaminoshamino Posts: 528member
    Beats said:

    shamino said:
    Apple may have been the first to deploy these technologies on a consumer device, but they didn't invent it.

    Before there was any iPad/iPhone, we were all fascinated by multitouch UI demos produced by Jeff Han (researcher at NYU and founder of Perceptive Pixel, which was since acquired by Microsoft).  For example:

    I don't think Apple ever used Jeff Han's code, and modern multitouch display panels use a completely different technology from what Han was using, but I can guarantee that lots of important people there (like the rest of us) saw these videos and drew inspiration from them.  Including swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom operations.

    Dismissing the hard work of Steve Jobs and Apple engineers because crappy resistive touch screens existed is ludicrous. I was heavy into futuristic cell phones in 2007 and had the highest rated Windows Mobile Phone and it was absolutely garbage compared to what iPhone brought. None of the ideas of Windows Mobile carried over to iPhone and it had none of the cool iPhone inventions like pinch to zoom. There were arrows everywhere in the UI and there was a “calibrate” setting I had to revisit every few days. This was a super high-tech phone in 2007, mobile keyboard and all!
    You didn't actually read anything I wrote, did you?  I didn't say anything about resistive screens or Windows phones.  Where you did you get the idea that I did?

    Jeff Han was not a Microsoft employee at the time.  He was a researcher at NYU, where he developed a lot of the fundamental research behind multitouch interfaces.  He published video demonstrations of his research over a year before Apple announced anything of the sort.  He was using a unique hardware system involving glass panels, cameras and projectors - which nobody else has ever used - but that's irrelevant.  The point is not the digitiizer but all of the user interface concepts that he developed in order to show the usefulness of multitouch.

    I get the impression that you hadn't actually watched his videos when they were published in 2006 and 2007.  You should go watch them now in order to understand what I'm talking about.

    Again, Apple did a tremendous amount of work to bring the iPhone to market, but to claim that they invented the underlying UI concepts like multitouch interfaces is to deny history.
    sphericfastasleepBeDifferent
  • Reply 16 of 26
    thttht Posts: 5,529member
    shamino said:
    Beats said:

    shamino said:
    Apple may have been the first to deploy these technologies on a consumer device, but they didn't invent it.

    Before there was any iPad/iPhone, we were all fascinated by multitouch UI demos produced by Jeff Han (researcher at NYU and founder of Perceptive Pixel, which was since acquired by Microsoft).  For example:

    I don't think Apple ever used Jeff Han's code, and modern multitouch display panels use a completely different technology from what Han was using, but I can guarantee that lots of important people there (like the rest of us) saw these videos and drew inspiration from them.  Including swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom operations.

    Dismissing the hard work of Steve Jobs and Apple engineers because crappy resistive touch screens existed is ludicrous. I was heavy into futuristic cell phones in 2007 and had the highest rated Windows Mobile Phone and it was absolutely garbage compared to what iPhone brought. None of the ideas of Windows Mobile carried over to iPhone and it had none of the cool iPhone inventions like pinch to zoom. There were arrows everywhere in the UI and there was a “calibrate” setting I had to revisit every few days. This was a super high-tech phone in 2007, mobile keyboard and all!
    You didn't actually read anything I wrote, did you?  I didn't say anything about resistive screens or Windows phones.  Where you did you get the idea that I did?

    Jeff Han was not a Microsoft employee at the time.  He was a researcher at NYU, where he developed a lot of the fundamental research behind multitouch interfaces.  He published video demonstrations of his research over a year before Apple announced anything of the sort.  He was using a unique hardware system involving glass panels, cameras and projectors - which nobody else has ever used - but that's irrelevant.  The point is not the digitiizer but all of the user interface concepts that he developed in order to show the usefulness of multitouch.

    I get the impression that you hadn't actually watched his videos when they were published in 2006 and 2007.  You should go watch them now in order to understand what I'm talking about.

    Again, Apple did a tremendous amount of work to bring the iPhone to market, but to claim that they invented the underlying UI concepts like multitouch interfaces is to deny history.
    Han was already 10 years late with his multitouch ideas. He was using a contrast based projection and imaging system to detect touch. That was already patented in the 1990s. Big difference between what was done in the 1990s and the stuff he did seems to be a front projection versus a rear projection for the light source and where the touch detection system is, otherwise it was basically a wall-sized touch design. The idea for controlling a UI with touch was old in the 1990s. Ideas are cheap, not even worth 2¢. A workable and productized touch device? That costs tens to hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Apple invented the underlying UI concepts for current day phones, or perhaps you can say they were the lead in a fusion of ideas from a field of smartphone OEMs after everyone dropped making thumb-board form factors to touchscreen form factors. All this stuff with touch detection, scroll locking, rubber banding, reduction of jitter, lag, keyboard, etc, basically was done at Apple in order to have a competent touch product. Incremental improvements obviously occurred through the years. I bet the amount of tech from Jeff Han's touch implementation is pretty close to zero. Nobody took any ideas from him to make their phones.

    Arguably, I think you can say that Apple's acquisition of Wayne Westerman's Fingerworks in 2005 was a huge acquisition for the iPhone. His tech was probably really what made the iPhone touch UI work, mainly in giving iPhones the least amount of touch input lag. Those drivers were gold. Getting "OS X" to have great responsiveness is a huge part of this too. Can't have one without the other. So, whoever on Scott Forstall's team that optimized the graphics stack for iPhones gets just as much recognition as Westerman"s team did.
    sphericauxiofastasleeplolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 26
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,038member
    Apple did all the hard practical work to actually make it work in a useful manner for the rest of us, even today the iPad is peerless in the so-called tablet world, Windows and Android facsimiles are still by in large not very good even after 12 years, since the iPad intro into the market, and the Apple Watch is now in a similar scenario.

    Xerox labs in hindsight had 90% of what became the future of computers in their lab, but demonstrating a science project is not the same as making it work, Thorium Reactors kinda works but until someone does the actual practical part it means nothing. Quantum computers will also be a thing in the future but it will need someone with money, smarts and the will to do the practical work to make it useful.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 26
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,580member
    danox said:
    Thorium Reactors kinda works but until someone does the actual practical part it means nothing. 
    Thorium reactors are a lot further away from reality than fusion reactors, and those have been just about ten years away from the breakthrough — for about sixty years now. 

    Thorium reactors may be a working thing at some point, but it's not going to be in my lifetime, and it doesn't actually look like they're ever going to be anything but hype. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 26
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,740member
    shamino said:
    Beats said:
    It’s insane how much work Apple has to do to invent the first iPhone. Swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom were insanely great innovations.
    Apple may have been the first to deploy these technologies on a consumer device, but they didn't invent it.

    Before there was any iPad/iPhone, we were all fascinated by multitouch UI demos produced by Jeff Han (researcher at NYU and founder of Perceptive Pixel, which was since acquired by Microsoft).  For example:

    I don't think Apple ever used Jeff Han's code, and modern multitouch display panels use a completely different technology from what Han was using, but I can guarantee that lots of important people there (like the rest of us) saw these videos and drew inspiration from them.  Including swiping, scrolling and pinch-to-zoom operations.
    Check out FingerWorks, whose work predates Jeff Han by a decade and is who Apple purchased to gain multitouch expertise and patents.  They did it the right way, unlike Google who continuously takes the clone and own route to avoid paying for licensing.
    lolliversphericwatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 26
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,740member
    alezvic said:
    Beats said:

    Only for Android to come along and copy all the hard work. Imagine how that felt?
    A huge corporation copying another big corporation, cry me a river. Kocienda got paid by Apple and kept being paid regardless. 

    The real sad thing is when a big corporation copies a small team of devs who seamingly get their main source of revenue destroyed overnight.
    Remove.bg, Camo, Pillbox from the top of my head, this WWDC alone. 
    Watson, f.lux, Growl, Duet and Luna Display and many other before. 
    Not unlike what Google did to Skyhook and many others whose services were integrated into Android.  Not to mention completely wiping out the value of software by giving it away for free and funding it via data harvesting.  Imagine if an architect's firm or a doctor's practice had to figure out how to collect and monetize data about their clients in order to make a living.  That's what small software companies need to do to these days.

    thtalezviclolliverwatto_cobra
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