Seven Years Ago Today Everything Changed. Again.

January 10, 2014

Seven years ago Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. I still watch that keynote every once in a while just to remind myself of what disruptive change looks like.

Four times in my life I have seen a massive change in technology, and each time it's drastically affected what I do for a living.

The first was the first time I saw a Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 1, I think it was 1978. A friend of mine worked on the operating system and I got to see an early model of it. Once I had a little money I bought an Apple II+ and got hooked on programming. Other than a little exposure in high school I didn't really have much access to a computer. Even though I was pursuing a degree in Chemistry I fought the urge to just be a programmer until 1981 when I got my first job. Being able to make a computer do cool stuff was far too interesting to not do it all the time.

The second big change's 30th anniversary comes later this month, the day when the Macintosh was first demoed. I had briefly had an Apple Lisa on my desk at work, and it was amazing. But the real kicker was the Macintosh and its bitmapped display and mouse and fonts and graphics. I knew I had to get involved and I did starting in 1985 working eventually on 3 important Mac applications (Trapeze, Persuasion and Deltagraph).

The third caught me by surprise, the first time I saw a web page it wasn't really all that amazing; not sure the exact date but possibly in 1993 or early 1994. It wasn't until I was working at Remedy in Mountain View, watching Netscape's IPO go berserk, that I started to realize it was happening again. By 1998 I was writing web apps (using WebObjects in some obscure language called Objective-C!).

Then seven years ago I watched the keynote and realized yet another revolution was about to change what I did for a living. I wrote this article the next day: The Real Revolution in the iPhone Is the Fully Programmable User Interface.

The funny thing about the keynote that always gets me is the thing that isn't in it, that one more thing that even Steve didn't realize would really revolutionize things: the App Store. Once anyone could write apps and sell them or give them away both the iPhone and Apple soared to ridiculous levels. It meant everyone could participate in the revolution.

So for the fourth time in my life something was invented that really did change my life, and what I did with it. Today I write iOS apps, just like before I wrote web apps, and before I wrote Mac apps, and before that I became a programmer. I have no idea if something else cool will happen but unless it's a time machine, we'll have to wait to find out.

Today watching the keynote everything seems so obvious and the technology even primitive but that's the point, nothing ever stands still, and you have to move with the times. What other industry changes the world over and over again? Where else can you work in something amazing today, replaced tomorrow with something even more amazing, and then replace it with ridiculously amazing the day after.

I had no idea when I started where things would be today, likely I wouldn't have believed it. But even after all these years I am still amazed I get to write code for a living and await whatever even more cool will come next.