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What Hath Jobs Wrought?

The original iPhone cost $500 and had no third-party apps. Today, the phone, and the world, are very different.
The original iPhone cost $500 and had no third-party apps. Today, the phone, and the world, are very different.

Think back ten years. If someone told you then that within the next decade, you would have a device that fits in your pocket, lets you play any song, watch any movie or take a really good photo, you might’ve believed them. But what if they told you that the same device would lead to thousands of car accidents every year? That the President of the United States would use the device to post messages accusing his predecessor of wiretapping him? What if they said thousands of people would be employed to make sure that no one was using this device to stream live video of themselves committing a murder?

The ads for Apple’s iPhone introduction on June 29, 2007 promised, “This is only the beginning.” They were right.

Apple didn’t invented the smartphone, but its interpretation of the device soon became standard. Within a few years, rectangular, handheld, touchscreen computers that could go online anywhere were everywhere (even if they weren’t made by Apple). And they so smoothly became ubiquitous that it’s difficult to assess just how significantly the iPhone has changed our culture.

As the smartphone to change all smartphones enters its next decade, we take a look back at how a device that was initially marketed as a tool to make calls and listen to music became what author Brian Merchant calls “a fundamental instrument of modern life.” And we’ll ask, what’s the next civilization-disrupting device?


Brian Merchant, Editor at Vice’s Motherboard; author of “The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone”; @bcmerchant

Manoush Zomorodi, Host, Note to Self podcast from WNYC Studios; @manoushz

For more, visit http://the1a.org.

© 2017 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.

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