My 2007 test drive with the original iPhone

Steve Jobs holds an original iPhone at the Apple launch event in 2007.

Editor’s note:  In honor of Apple’s special product event today, I’m reprinting a column I wrote as technology reporter at The Oklahoman in 2007 after using the original iPhone for a week at the invitation of AT&T.  I’ve been an iPhone user now for almost a dozen years. However, in the months after the iPhone debuted in 2007, I had only a lowly flip-phone and some serious iPhone envy. 

I was seated prominently in a popular lunch spot along Western Avenue on Monday afternoon talking on the new iPhone that AT&T provided me for a one-week tryout.

I was there to show it off.

Parked at a table in the center of the busy restaurant, I whipped out the shiny new high-tech toy and proceeded to flaunt it for 45 minutes.

Important e-mails were read and sent, using the iPhone’s virtual keyboard that magically appears when any typing is needed. Web sites were accessed, appearing just as they do on a desktop or laptop computer. Tunes were cataloged on the device’s iPod. Photos were taken with the camera phone.

Nobody seemed to notice or even look my way.

Obviously, the crowd was suffering from a serious case of iPhone envy.  Their jealousy caused them to look the other way, even as I held it up to input an important appointment on the calendar.

So, I stepped it up a notch and took a very important phone call. I let the telephone ring several times before answering it. Loudly.

People continued their conversations at neighboring tables. I’m sure they were seething because they had no iPhone like the one that was providing me with such child-like wonder.

Meanwhile, I was seething at their ignorance. Or was it apathy?

Of course, they had no way of knowing that the very important phone call I took came from a coworker whom I had asked to call me at that time so I could make a show of taking a very important phone call.

I was engaged in animated conversation on the iPhone for several minutes when I looked around and noticed that the entire section of the restaurant was empty save for me.

I gave up, inserted the phone back into my shirt pocket and quietly walked to the car. Lunch was a bust.

When I walked back into the newsroom, my mood brightened. At least I had a captive audience who couldn’t run when I whipped the iPhone out. I could show off its many great features, from the easy YouTube access right on the main screen to the Google Maps button that let me see a great close-up satellite view of my house.

So, I walked into an editor’s office and pulled it out of my pocket. He was armed only with a Blackberry, which was suddenly relegated to old school technology status. The editor wanted to see the iPhone’s Web browser in action.

We had no WiFi network for the device to automatically find and use, so I called up a page using AT&T’s wireless network. We waited. And waited. Finally, we both had to go back to work.

“I’ll bring it back in when it’s feeling better,” I said, walking out.

On the way back to my desk I passed a co-worker I’ll call “Paul” and sprung the iPhone on him.

Just as I was about to list some bragging points of the device, he reached in his pocket and pulled out … an iPhone.

Paul had had it for a week and never told anyone until that moment. I almost quit on the spot.

Instead, I put the phone away and slinked back to my cubicle. An editor shouted some instructions from her desk.

“Write something about your experiences with the iPhone.”

Oh, great. Well, at least my wife liked the device until I told her about the $600 price tag. She made me put it in a drawer for safekeeping until I could give it back to AT&T.

iPhone, I hardly knew you.

An unexpected gift and a flight to remember

 

Editor’s note: Back in 2005, I covered the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization convention in Boston as technology reporter for The Oklahoman. I was moved by an incident that happened on the flight back home and wrote about it in a column a week later. It’s short and not of anything of real consequence, but I’m proud of the message that it has. So, I’m sharing it in this blog.

I settled into my seat – row 24, seat D on the aisle – for a four-hour flight from Boston to Houston last week.

A woman occupied the window seat, and I was pleased to see the middle seat was empty.

Then I looked up and saw a really big man walking toward the back of the plane, and I knew where he was headed.

I mean “big” in the same way we envision Santa Claus as “big.” Rotund. My mom would be nice and say he was just big boned.

Anyway, I stood up and let the big guy into the middle seat. He spilled over into my seat and that of the poor woman in the window seat.

I resented every inch of his girth, but said nothing. I read my paper, listing toward the aisle.

I guess I couldn’t hide my discomfort because the flight attendant stopped and offered me another seat.  She said she had only middle seats available. I said I was fine and went back to my paper.

Meanwhile, the big guy folded his arms, leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes.

The plane took off and here we were, swapping the cotton off our shirts as our bellies rubbed against one another. He slept. I read and fumed.

There he was, standing by the rear emergency exit adjacent to the two bathrooms and the galley. He was nursing a cup of coffee. ‘So there you are,’ I said, not knowing really what to say. ‘I wanted to give you some space,’ he replied.

About an hour into the flight, the big guy said he wanted to get up and stretch his legs. I gladly stood and let him out.

He went toward the back of the plane and disappeared.

Now I really could enjoy the paper and the book I brought with me.

But time went by and I began to wonder where the big guy was. An hour ticked off, then two hours. I decided to wander back to the rear of the plane and see if I could find him.

There he was, standing by the rear emergency exit adjacent to the two bathrooms and the galley. He was nursing a cup of coffee.

“So there you are,” I said, not knowing really what to say.

“I wanted to give you some space,” he replied.

I went back to my seat.

About 45 minutes before we landed in Houston, the big guy reclaimed his middle seat.

I didn’t mind so much now.

“I really appreciate what you did,” I said to him. “You certainly didn’t have to do that.”

“You deserved it,” he said. “Is your mother still living?”

“Yes, she is.”

“Then do something nice for her on Mother’s Day.”

I felt about one-inch tall.

The plane landed, and we departed with no more words. I regretted that I didn’t ask his name or even introduce myself.

So, on Sunday I called Mom, wished her a happy Mother’s Day and told her this story. She told me it made her day.

Thank you for the present, big guy.

 

 

 

Setting it straight; digital newspaper subscriber responds

I recently shared my thoughts in this blog on the current struggles of the newspaper industry and frustrations that I have little to offer as far as solutions to reverse the trend.

I used my friend Casey as an example of smart young potential readers who have found their news sources elsewhere.

After the blog post was published, I discovered that I did Casey a disservice.  

Turns out, even though he’s great with snarky one-liners about the newspaper industry (for my benefit as an old newspaper guy), he still reads the daily newspaper online.

Casey told me that he is a newsok.com “pro” subscriber to the online version of The Oklahoman.  And he comes from a family of longtime newspaper readers and subscribers.

So, I asked him to share his thoughts on what type of content the newspaper should offer readers.  Here is what he said:

“I go to the newspaper when I want a more in-depth, more trustworthy source. Instead of instant alerts, I think they need to slow their content even more; give me more detail and deeper journalism. Heavily researched.  Articles more like what you would find in a magazine, almost.”

Casey was responding to what I wrote about young people seeking only online news alerts and instant headlines instead of deeper newspaper coverage.  

Of course, newspapers continue to struggle, despite the support of individuals like Casey.  The Oklahoman announced in its Dec. 27 editions that it was trimming its circulation area and eliminating street sales. 

Casey broke my stereotype of the typical young American who only learns what’s happening in the world (or their local community) through social media interactions.

And he likes the paper.  He really, really likes it.

“For my money, real reporters work for the newspaper,” he told me.

Wow. Casey, I salute you.  And I promise not to throw you under the bus again, even if you zing me with a snarky one-liner.