One day in January 2007, this correspondent was taken aback by the sight of a crowd. It had literally camped outside the glass cube of the Apple store on Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, in New York. The scene looked like a siege.
There were security guards the size of a small bulldozer, and a velvet rope ran along the esplanade. Surprise only lasted a fraction of a second. Your correspondent remembered that a few days later the very first iPhone would hit the market.
Some of these people had brought sleeping bags. A few had an expression in their face more commonly associated with mystics or zealots of any conviction. And they probably felt a very strong, almost religious urge to be among the first to experience the magic of an iPhone.
The scene was truly surreal, like people waiting for the last boat out of Pompeii. Yet when a long time later this correspondent laid his hands on an iPhone, he, too, converted to this faith. Kind of.
It is true that the later models look lame. But there can be no bigger compliment, and acknowledgment, than imitation. The dispute of Mac versus Windows about the originality of icons on a screen is a false one. That credit goes to PARC, Xerox’s lab for futuristic projects. It spawned much of the modern consumer technology as we know it. But the iPhone was a true pioneer. If you have a doubt about, look around and see who set the template of today’s smartphones.