back to article Fake History Alert: Sorry BBC, but Apple really did invent the iPhone

You've heard of "Fake News" – but how does Fake History gradually supersede the reality-based version? It's through repetition, and Christmas found the BBC busy doing some scrubbing. The proposition it set about is simple: Apple didn't really invent the iPhone. From Oxford, inventor and engineer Andrew Fentem writes to take …

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  1. TRT Silver badge

    Does that mean...

    that Mazzucato and her research is a product of the state?

    1. YARR

      Mariana seems to be confusing the innovator who created the idea with who owns the intellectual property rights. The Soviet Union owned Tetris but they acknowledged that Alexey Pajitnov invented it.

      States and corporations represent the people who own them: shareholders or taxpayers respectively. Funding innovation gives you ownership rights but doesn't make you the innovator.

    2. Oh Homer Silver badge
      Headmaster

      The point stands

      It remains a fact that most of the technology that Apple benefits from, and indeed most of today's technology, only exists because of government funding. Not just "state schools" but actual government funded research. The fact that this research was conducted by individuals does not somehow alter the fact that those individuals were paid by the state to do state-funded research on state-owned equipment in state-owned facilities. These facts are supported by well-documented history [*], not merely the opinions of a single observer to that history.

      The reason for this is not difficult to deduce. The private sector only has one motive: profit. That means it is intrinsically unwilling to take risks. Genuinely new technology is unproven by definition, and therefore anyone with a purely financial motive will be unwilling to risk capital pursuing it, indeed the private sector actually has a legal obligation not to take such risks with investor capital. This means that the private sector is fundamentally antithetical to innovation.

      The state, meanwhile, has other motives. That doesn't mean those motives are necessarily more noble, but they are not entirely financial either. One of the biggest is military supremacy, and that single obsession is probably responsible for more genuine innovation than any other throughout history, for better or worse.

      It's ironic that the same pro-capitalist arguments that have us living in caves if we abandon capitalism, are equally applicable to anti-statism, in fact probably more so. The private sector excels at taking state-funded technology and making it look pretty, but not much else. Does that really qualify as "innovation"? Well, only if your definition of "innovation" is money.

      [*] "NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.

      The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare."

      1. deconstructionist

        Re: The point stands

        the point is flat on it's back just like the sophistic reply.

        Lets take apples first machines they copied the mouse from Olivetti , they took the OS look from a rank XEROX engineers work, the private sector take risks and plagiarize when they can, but the missing person here is the amateur, take the BBS private individuals designed, built and ran it was the pre cursor to the net and a lot of .com company's like AOL and CompuServe where born there.

        And the poor clarity in the BBC article is mind numbing, the modern tech industry has the Fairchild camera company as it's grand daddy which is about as far from federal or state intervention and innovation as you can get .

        Deconstructionism only works when you understand the brief and use the correct and varied sources not just one crackpot seeking attention.

        1. Oh Homer Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Fairchild

          You mean the same Fairchild that owed its very existence to highly lucrative military contracts?

          If you're going to cherry-pick examples to discredit the significance of state funded innovation, it might be a good idea to try to pick one that wasn't actually state funded.

          1. deconstructionist

            Re: Fairchild

            Fairchild's innovation and design are the egg the contracts are the chicken, timelines always confuse deconstructionists, it was the innovation in transistors that led to government contracts not the other way about ....so your point is vapid.

            take the micro processor which one of Fairchild's children "Intel" designed was to do with calculators for the mass market nothing to do with military contract that came after, so if you're going to make a counter point take the 3 step rule

            think

            check

            type .

      2. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: The point stands

        I'm sure you have many valid points, but I don't think this is one of them:

        "The reason for this is not difficult to deduce. The private sector only has one motive: profit. That means it is intrinsically unwilling to take risks."

        Typically it is the complete opposite.

        Yes, tax payer money does fund research, typically in a university setting.

        Such research is often 1) WIthin very confined remit. 2) Poorly funded. 3) Politically driven. 4) Performed by not the best. 5) Separated from the real world.

        I'd say that most innovation happens funded by venture capital outside of state sponsored activities.

  2. Spleenmeister

    Fake news? Shurely shome mishtake?

    The BBC spreading fake news? Colour me shocked

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Fake news? Shurely shome mishtake?

      BBC Journalists knowing sweet FA about technology. Colour me shocked. But to be honest quibbling with such an obvious puff piece is a bit of the level of handbags at dawn.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Fake news? Shurely shome mishtake?

      > Colour me shocked.

      You missed the icon here.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. luminous
    FAIL

    Optional

    Calls out someone for not being impartial then refers to searching the internet by using Google as a verb....

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      I can only find one instance of "Google" which is in the quoted letter.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Optional

      > by using Google as a verb....

      Goggle spokesperson, I presume?

  5. Notas Badoff

    Was it delicious served cold?

    "... but I would therefore have three suggestions as to how the situation might be rectified: ..." I see "publish an apology and retraction", and I see "BBC could publish another article" ...

    What was his third suggestion? Oh I do wonder...

    Was it unprintable, though "... things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, or more effective"?

  6. luminous
    FAIL

    Impartiality

    Calls out someone for not being impartial... then refers to searching the internet by using "Google" as a verb...

  7. jaduncan

    Ironically, neither party mentions LG.

  8. Gruntled

    Who really invented the iPhone?

    Everyone knows that it was Shiva Ayyadurai, right after he invented email.

  9. MR J

    Uhhhh

    Seeing how much free advertising the BBC has given Apple over the years I doubt they will care.

    And lets be honest here, the guy is kinda correct. We didn't just go from a dumb phone to a smart phone, there was a gradual move towards it as processing power was able to be increased and electronic packages made smaller. Had we gone from the old brick phones straight to an iPhone then I would agree that they owned something like TNT.

    Did Apple design the iPhone - Yes, of course.

    Did Apple invent the Smart Phone - Nope.

    IBM had a touch screen "smart" phone in 1992 that had a square screen with rounded corners.

    What Apple did was put it into a great package with a great store behind it and they made sure it worked - and worked well. I personally am not fond of Apple due to the huge price premium they demand and overly locked down ecosystems, but I will admit it was a wonderful product Design.

  10. Chris G Silver badge

    In a State

    Based on Mazzucato's thinking, if anyone educated by the State creates anything of note and one disregards any subsequent influences on them, they owe the State, then that should apply equally to anyone who becomes a criminnal/terrorist/paedo etc because they were educated by the State and it should reap the benefits/blame for it's education and guidance.

  11. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge
    Meh

    News organization with an agenda

    Well, what a surprise.

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Coat

    Invention of iPhone

    It wasn't even really an invention.

    The BBC frequently "invents" tech history. They probably think MS and IBM created personal computing, when in fact they held it back for 10 years and destroyed innovating companies then.

    The only significant part was the touch interface by Fingerworks.

    I was reading a BBC news web article and it was wrong too. It missed out emphasising that the real reason for success in 2007 was the deals with operators, cheap high cap data packages, often bundled with iPhone from the Mobile Operator.

    This is nonsense:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38550016

    "Those were the days, by the way, when phones were for making calls but all that was about to change."

    Actually if you had a corporate account, you had a phone already with email, Apps, ability to read MS Office docs, web browser and even real Fax send/receive maybe 5 or 6 years before the iPhone. Apart from an easier touch interface, the pre-existing phones had more features like copy/paste, voice control and recording calls.

    The revolution was ordinary consumers being able to have a smart phone AND afford the data. The actual HW was commodity stuff. I had the dev system for the SC6400 Samsung ARM cpu used it.

    Why did other phones use resistive + stylus instead of capacitive finger touch?

    1) Apple Newton and Palm: Handwriting & annotation. Needs high resolution.

    2) Dominance of MS CE interface (only usable with with a high resolution stylus.

    The capacitive touch existed in the late 1980s, but "holy grail" was handwriting recognition, not gesture control, though Xerox and IIS both had worked on it and guestures were defined before the 1990s. So the UK guy didn't invent anything.

    Also irrelevant.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-38552241

    Mines the one with a N9110 and later N9210 in the pocket. The first commercial smart phone was 1998 and crippled by high per MByte or per second (or both!) charging. Also in 2002, max speed was often 28K, but then in 2005 my landline was still 19.2K till I got Broadband, though I had 128K in 1990s in the city (ISDN) before I moved.

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "opinion pieces don't need to be balanced"

    If I admit that that point of view is justified, that can only be if the article is clearly labelled as an opinion piece, and projects that fact unambiguously.

    I am no fan of Apple, but to state that something was invented by the State because everyone involved went to state-funded school is a kindergarten-level of thinking that has no place in reasoned argument.

    The only good thing I take from this article is the knowledge that whatever I hear or read from someone signed Harford and/or Mazzucato is something that I should take with a heavy load of salt.

  14. TonyJ Silver badge

    Hmmm....iPhone 1.0

    I actually got one of these for my wife.

    It was awful. It almost felt like a beta product (and these are just a few of things I still remember):

    It had no kind of face sensor so it was common for the user to disconnect mid-call via their chin or cheek;

    It's autocorrect functions were terrible - tiny little words above the word in question and even tinier x to close the option;

    Inability to forward messages;

    No email support;

    No apps.

    I think it's reasonably fair to say that it was the app store that really allowed the iPhone to become so successful, combined with the then Apple aura and mystique that Jobs was bringing to their products.

    As to who invented this bit or that bit - I suggest you could pull most products released in the last 10-20 years and have the same kind of arguments.

    But poor show on the beeb for their lack of fact checking on this one.

  15. spider from mars

    I don't really see what the fuss is about

    I listened to the podcast - the title was a bit hyperbolic, but the actual content of the program seemed uncontroversial.

  16. Spender
    FAIL

    I can't think of a single invention that doesn't stand on the shoulders of previous inventions. Following this through to its logical conclusion, one might be tempted to think that nothing has been invented for millions of years. Hmm..

  17. Ian Emery Silver badge

    For balance

    Can we please have an article stating the BBC is wonderful and never lies??

    Oh, sorry, just noticed you already have!!!!

  18. John Miles 1

    Tim Harford

    Sad to see someone like Tim Harford being seduced the the publicity that a 'startling revelation' produces. Perhaps he should stick to seeing where the facts lead rather than following the most headline grabbing path.

  19. David Tallboys

    I thought I invented it.

    Somebody gave me an iPod and i said "Wow, it can do all this. Wouldn't it be great if it could make phone calls too?" A week later there's an iPhone.

  20. nedge2k

    Apple invented everything...

    They may have invented the iPhone but they DID NOT invent the "smartphone category" as that article suggests.

    Microsoft had Smartphone 2002 and Pocket PC 2000 which were eventually merged into Windows Mobile and, interface aside, were vastly superior to the iPhone's iOS. Devices were manufactured in a similar fashion to how android devices are now - MS provided the OS and firms like HTC, HP, Acer, Asus, Eten, Motorola made the hardware. People rarely know how long HTC has been going as they used to OEM stuff for the networks - like the original Orange SPV (HTC Canary), a candybar style device running Microsoft Smartphone 2002. Or the original O2 XDA (HTC Wallaby), one the first Pocket PC "phone edition" devices and, IIRC, the first touchscreen smartphone to be made by HTC.

  21. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Engineering change at the BBC?

    > Or, the BBC could publish another article – preferably written by engineering experts

    I love a techy with a sense of humour.

    The BBC doesn't "do" engineering - especially engineering experts. It barely does any science (the best you can hope for these days is a brief explanation in a cookery programme.) About as far as they are willing to go is to have James May wielding a screwdriver and putting something back together again (though how do we know he wasn't filmed taking it apart and they are just playing the recording backwards?)

    1. Lotaresco Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: I thought I invented it.

      I invented the needle. I was looking at my shirt that had a missing button and I said I could fix this if I had a needle. I'm a genius, I am.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: I thought I invented it.

      That was the first market demographics - iPod users happy to buy one who could also make calls. But that's also were Nokia failed spectacularly - it was by nature phone-centric. Its models where phones that could also make something else. True smartphones are instead little computers that can also make phone calls. In many ways Treo/Palm and Windows CE anticipated it, but especially the latter tried to bring a "desktop" UI on tiny devices (and designed UIs around a stylus and a physical keyboard). the iPod probably taught Apple you need a proper "finger based" UI for this kind of devices - especially for the consumer market - and multitouch solved a lot of problems.

      1. Ogi

        Re: I thought I invented it.

        >That was the first market demographics - iPod users happy to buy one who could also make calls. But that's also were Nokia failed spectacularly - it was by nature phone-centric. Its models where phones that could also make something else. True smartphones are instead little computers that can also make phone calls. In many ways Treo/Palm and Windows CE anticipated it, but especially the latter tried to bring a "desktop" UI on tiny devices (and designed UIs around a stylus and a physical keyboard). the iPod probably taught Apple you need a proper "finger based" UI for this kind of devices - especially for the consumer market - and multitouch solved a lot of problems.

        I don't know exactly why Nokia failed, but it wasn't because their smart phones were "phone centric". The N900, N810 and N800 are to this day far more "little computers" than any other smartphone so far. Indeed, as they ran a Debian Linux derivative with a themed Enlightenment based desktop, which is pretty much off the shelf Linux software. While they didn't have multitouch, you could use your finger on the apps no problem. It had a stylus for when you wanted extra precision though.

        I could apt-get (with some sources tweaking) what I wanted outside of their apps. You could also compile and run proper Linux desktop apps on it, including openoffice (back in the day). It ran like a dog and didn't fit the "mobile-UI" they created, but it worked.

        It also had a proper X server, so I could forward any phone app to my big PC if I didn't feel like messing about on a small touchscreen. To this day I miss this ability. To just connect via SSH to my phone over wifi, run an smartphone app, and have it appear on my desktop like any other app would.

        It had xterm, it had Perl built in, it had Python (a lot of it was written in Python), you even could install a C toolchain on it and develop C code on it. People ported standard desktop UIs on it, and with a VNC/RDP server you could use it as a portable computer just fine (just connect to it using a thin client, or a borrowed PC).

        I had written little scripts to batch send New years SMS to contacts, and even piped the output of "fortune" to a select few numbers just for kicks (the days with free SMS, and no chat apps). To this day I have no such power on my modern phones.

        Damn, now that I think back, it really was a powerful piece of kit. I actually still miss the features *sniff*

        And now that I think about it, In fact I suspect they failed because their phones were too much "little computers" at a time when people wanted a phone. Few people (outside of geeks) wanted to fiddle with X-forwarding, install SSH, script/program/modify, or otherwise customise their stuff.

        Arguably the one weakest app on the N900 was the phone application itself, which was not open source, so could not be improved by the community, so much so people used to say it wasn't really a phone, rather it was a computer with a phone attached, which is exactly what I wanted.

    3. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Re: "opinion pieces don't need to be balanced"

      "I am no fan of Apple, but to state that something was invented by the State because everyone involved went to state-funded school is a kindergarten-level of thinking that has no place in reasoned argument."

      Everything from kindergarten to university is NOT state funded - it is tax payer funded. So you are correct to say that argument is wrong, but even if it was right, it would still be wrong.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Uhhhh

      There wasn't even a great app store at the beginning. It was more of a feature phone with something new (a touch screen).

    5. Lotaresco Silver badge

      Re: Apple invented everything...

      "Microsoft had Smartphone 2002 and Pocket PC 2000 which were eventually merged into Windows Mobile and, interface aside, were vastly superior to the iPhone's iOS."

      I had to evaluate every phone technology available in 2002 for a government agency. I'm sorry to say that you're wrong by a country mile.

      The weak spot for Microsoft was that it decided to run telephony in the application layer. This meant that any problem with the OS would result in telephony being lost. Symbian provided a telephone which could function as a computer. The telephony was a low-level service and even if the OS crashed completely you could still make and receive calls. Apple adopted the same architecture, interface and telephony are low level services which are difficult to kill.

      Does it matter? Well, I recall the anecdote of the Italian journalist pleased as could be with his shiny new Windows phone. He told me lots of times about how great it was. Right up until the day he went skiing and broke his leg. He was off the piste by a few tens of metres and people were passing by not seeing him, so he dialled for help (118 medical emergency) BSOD. After several attempts he realised that he wasn't going to get through on 118, so he tried all the emergency numbers 112, 113, 115, 116 and even 1515 for a forest fire. Every time the phone BSOD'd. He tried turning it off an on again - no use. He tried to call his wife, best friend etc, BSOD. He ended up screaming at the top of his voice for over an hour until someone heard him. The phone ended up in the bin and he went back to a boring Nokia because at least it worked as a phone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple invented everything...

        "Microsoft had Smartphone 2002 and Pocket PC 2000....... BSOD......"

        Smartphone and Pocket PC, didn't have a BSOD. If it broke, the screen usually went white.

      2. nedge2k

        Re: Apple invented everything...

        Lotaresco, I used to review a lot of the devices back in the day, as well as using them daily and modifying them (my phone history for ref: http://mowned.com/nedge2k). Not once did they ever fail to make a phone call. Maybe the journalist was biased and made it up (Symbian was massively under threat at the time and all sorts of bullshit stories were flying about), maybe he had dodgy hardware, who knows. Either way, it doesn't mean that the OS as a whole wasn't superior to what Nokia and Apple produced - because in every other way, it was.

      3. imaginarynumber

        Re: Apple invented everything...

        @Lotaresco

        "The weak spot for Microsoft was that it decided to run telephony in the application layer. This meant that any problem with the OS would result in telephony being lost....

        Symbian provided a telephone which could function as a computer. The telephony was a low-level service and even if the OS crashed completely you could still make and receive calls. Apple adopted the same architecture, interface and telephony are low level services which are difficult to kill."

        Sorry, but if iOS (or symbian) crashes you cannot make calls.

        In what capacity were you evaluating phones in 2002?

        I cannot recall ever seeing a Windows Mobile blue screen.It would hang from time to time, but it never blue screened.

    6. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Impartiality

      "Calls out someone for not being impartial... then refers to searching the internet by using "Google" as a verb..."

      So what? Hoover, Sellotape etc.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: Impartiality

        Xerox. Kleenex. Scotch tape.

        ...Crapper.

    7. graeme leggett

      Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

      It does broadcast the RI lectures, though.

    8. prismatics

      Re: I thought I invented it.

      Except that iPhone is based on Mac (and OS X) technology and was far more complex to achieve due to constrained battery size, processing power which was not much to speak of and a new user interface paradigm where the user can touch the content. This kind of responsive UI didn't exist back then. One engineer from apple once told that they had to implement the camera in such a way that the phone would take a picture about 0.25 seconds in advance of the user pressing the camera capture button because of slow hardware. But things have changed now, as apple develops most of its own hardware from scratch.

      1. LDS Silver badge
        Joke

        "phone would take a picture about 0.25 seconds in advance of the user pressing the camera button"

        Which kind of predictive technology it used? Shutter lags has been a problem (and for some, still is) for many digital cameras.

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: I thought I invented it.

        they had to implement the camera in such a way that the phone would take a picture about 0.25 seconds in advance of the user pressing the camera capture button

        So they had to invent a time machine?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "phone would take a picture about 0.25 seconds in advance..."

          Apple figured out how see 0.25 seconds in the future, but due to the processing requirements of the temporal shifts, it reacts 1 second after it actually happens.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I thought I invented it.

          No, just constantly buffer record a film. When the user presses the button you take an earlier frame from the buffer.

          I think this has now been exposed to the user as each iPhone photo is actually a short film.

    9. Emmeran

      Re: I thought I invented it.

      Shortly there-after I duct-taped 4 of them together and invented the tablet.

      My version of it all is that the glory goes to iTunes for consumer friendly interface (ignore that concept Linux guys) and easy music purchases, the rest was natural progression and Chinese slave labor.

      Smart phones and handheld computers were definitely driven by military dollars world wide but so was the internet. All that fact shows is that a smart balance of Capitalism & Socialism can go a long way.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: I thought I invented it.

        " smart balance of Capitalism & Socialism can go a long way"

        Is that why all the cool technology came from the East Block?

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