The Pocket Supercomputer

I don’t have many regrets in life but a professional one is that I opted not to cover the unveiling of the original iPhone [pictured from my archives] for my journalism clientele despite being in the area. My wife and I were new Apple devotees and wanted to visit San Francisco, so to celebrate my birthday that year we flew from Florida to California to attend the annual MacWorld convention, where then Apple chief Steve Jobs was doing the honors.

There were actually a couple of good reasons I didn't attend the festivities that historic morning. For starters, I wasn’t keen on waiting outside for hours in the pre-dawn chilly weather [a record cold snap hit the area] and I didn’t want to leave Linda back at the hotel to navigate the several blocks to the convention center by herself. But had I realized how historic an event it was I might have been more motivated. The iPhone is the biggest selling electronic device in history, with better than 700 MILLION sold to date, or more than twice the population of America, and it has revolutionized life as we know it.

Venture into public almost anywhere across America, or the world for that matter, and you are likely to find a multitude, if not a majority, of people using the almost ubiquitous smartphone. The iPhone has become so popular that people forget the sophisticated technological breakthroughs it introduced, including touchscreen navigation among others that we now take for granted. It is no exaggeration to consider it the original pocket supercomputer.

No less than renowned venture capitalist Marc Andreessen is quoted as saying so in the recently released book Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. “That iPhone sitting in your pocket is the exact equivalent of a Cray XMP supercomputer from twenty years ago that used to cost ten million dollars. It’s got the same operating system software, the same processing speed, the same data storage, compressed down to a six-hundred-dollar device. That is the breakthrough Steve achieved. That’s what these phones really are!”

According to an article by Joshua Brustein in a recent issue of Bloomburg Business titled “Inside RadioShack’s Slow-Motion Collapse,” “The cell phone also helped kill the rest of the retailer’s business by destroying the market for so many of the gadgets RadioShack used to sell, such as voice recorders, GPS devices, answering machines, and camcorders. Early last year, Steve Cichon, a writer for the website Trending Buffalo, sifted through a RadioShack ad from 1991 and found that his iPhone had negated any need for 13 of the 15 products being sold. The listed price on those items: $3,054.82.” Supercomputer indeed.