Why We Witnessed History at the iPhone 4S Launch

on October 10, 2011
Reading Time: 3 minutes

While some people were disappointed that Apple did not introduce the iPhone 5, most pretty much missed the significance of the event and the fact that they were witnessing history.

In 1984, when Steve Jobs introduced the Mac, he did something quite historic. He introduced the Mac’s graphical user interface. But he actually topped himself with the introduction of another technology-the mouse. In essence, he introduced the next user input device that has been at the heart of personal computing for nearly two decades.

What’s interesting about this is that he did not invent the GUI. That came from Xerox Parc. And he did not invent the mouse. Douglas Engelbart invented the mouse. But by marrying them to his OS he reinvented the GUI and OS and gave us a completely new way to deliver the man-machine interface through the mouse. Until that time all computer input was done by textual typing.

Then, in 2007, with the introduction of the iPhone, Jobs and team did it again. He created the touch user interface and this time married it to his iOS. He did not invent touch computing. That technology has been around for 20 years via pen input or minimally within desktop touch UI’s such as those used in HP’s Touchsmart desktops. But he integrated it within iOS and gave the world a completely new way to interact with small, handheld computers. With the new touch gestures part of their laptop trackpad designs, they have even extended it to their core Mac portable computing platform as well. In essence, Jobs second UI act was to bring touch UI’s to mainstream computing.

Now, with the introduction of SIRI, integrated into iOS and a core part of the new iPhone OS, he and the Apple team have given to the world what we will look back on and realize is the next major user input technology-Voice and Speech. As reader Hari Seldon points out, the real breakthrough we will come to realize is in Siri’s “applied artificial intelligence.” It is its speech comprehension that will be its greatest advancement.

Again, he did not invent this technology. But Apple’s genius is to keep trying to make the man-machine interface easier to use and with each form, be it the mouse, touch, or voice, Apple has been the main company to popularize these new inputs and thus help advance the overall way man communicates with machines.

I have personally witnessed all three of these historical technology introductions. When the Mac was introduced in 1984, I was sitting third row center at the Foothill Community College’s auditorium. Then in 2007, I was at Moscone West, fourth row Center when Jobs and team introduced the iPhone with its touch UI. And most recently, I was at their campus auditorium, Building 4 of Infinite Loop, 5th row center, when Tim Cook and his team introduced the iPhone 4S and the new Siri Voice and Speech interface, making this their third major contribution to the advancements of computer input. (I make a habit of remembering exactly where I am when I watch history being made.)

Now here is another interesting point. Although Apple has had this touch UI in place and integrated in to iOS since 2007 and the Mac OS X since last year, only now is the Windows world starting to get serious about integrating touch into their phone and computer operating systems. Although Apple will continue to advance their various touch UI’s, they can rightfully say-been, there, done, that.

It is time to take it up a notch and for them their next user input mountain to scale will be the use of voice and speech as part of their future man-machine interface. It may start with iOS but like touch, I expect this UI to be in the Mac in short time as well.

Yes folks, for those of us at the iPhone 4S launch we witnessed history being made. Unfortunately, for a lot of people in at that event, they missed it.

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