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 …

TRT
Silver badge

Does that mean...

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

14
1
Bronze badge

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.

1
0
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."

4
1

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.

2
1
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.

0
1

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 .

0
0
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.

0
0

Fake news? Shurely shome mishtake?

The BBC spreading fake news? Colour me shocked

18
7

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.

9
0
Silver badge
Childcatcher

Re: Fake news? Shurely shome mishtake?

> Colour me shocked.

You missed the icon here.

0
2

This post has been deleted by its author

FAIL

Optional

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

11
25
Silver badge

Re: Optional

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

0
0
Silver badge

Re: Optional

> by using Google as a verb....

Goggle spokesperson, I presume?

1
0
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?)

20
0
Silver badge

Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

It does broadcast the RI lectures, though.

4
1
Silver badge

Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

"The BBC doesn't "do" engineering "

CEEFAX, PAL Colour TV, 625 line transmissions, The BBC 'B', Satellite Broadcasting, Digital Services, the iPlayer, micro:bit, Smart TV services.

There's also the work that the BBC did in improving loudspeakers including the BBC LS range. That work is one reason that British loudspeakers are still considered among the world's best designs.

By all means kick the BBC, but keep it factual.

16
0
TRT
Silver badge

Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

They've got their finger in another pie I thought. something recent and to do with 10k UUUUHD or some such shizzle.

2
0
TRT
Silver badge

Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

Oh and NICAM don't forget.

6
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

Nope - not any more they dont - its pretty much all outsourced to Ericsson Broadcast and Media Services (EBMS), formerly Red Bee Media - which was the spunoff part of auntie that did all the cool engineering stuff....

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

The BBC does not broadcast anything technical to it's audience. Tomorrows World is long gone as is the BBC Micro. The BBC could do a TV series on the Raspberry PI but that would be going back to the golden age of technical stuff on the Beeb.

2
0
Silver badge

Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

Why not mention the fantastic DAB as well? Whops..

Perhaps the big 3D rollout? Ouch..

Can they, thanks to their superior technical knowledge and clout at least make hardware manufacturers support seamless switch to 50p? No.. not that either.

But they can make an iPlayer that has big pink play icons obscuring any images you might want to see.

At least they have a bottomless pit of money they can spend on iPlayer..

I don't think BBC is what it used to be.

2
0

Re: Engineering change at the BBC?

That was in the days that the BBC trained its own engineers and technicians.

Even buying audio mixing consoles, they would ask for alterations in the circuits and get the manufacturers to produce to their spec (see SSL E series schematics from the eighties), even if it was only an additional resistor here or there.

I wonder how many freelancers and contractors they use now to cover what once was done in-house.

2
0

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.

8
1
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.

1
8
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.

7
0

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.

0
12

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
4
Silver badge

Re: I thought I invented it.

Hmm, I thought that too. Does that mean it's so obvious as to be unpatentable?

2
0
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
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: I thought I invented it.

Meh, where were you kids when I taped my Sony Walkman and Motorola DynaTAC together?

2
0
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?

6
0
Ogi
Bronze 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.

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.

7
0
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.

3
0
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.

1
0
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?

0
0
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.

24
4

Re: Invention of iPhone

The ground breaking elements of the iPhone were all to do with usability:

The fixed price data tariff was - to me - the biggest innovation. It may have been the hardest to do, as it involved entrenched network operators in a near monopoly. The hardware engineers only had to deal with the laws of physics.

The apple store made it easy to purchase and install apps and media. Suddenly you didn't have to be a geek or an innovator to make your phone do something useful or fun that the manufacturer didn't want to give to everyone.

The improved touch interface, the styling, and apple's cache all helped, and, I assume, fed into the efforts to persuade the network operators to give the average end user access to data without fear.

5
1

Re: Invention of iPhone

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

I remember having a motorola A920 way back in 2003/2004 maybe, and on that I made video calls, went online, had a touch interface, ran 'apps', watched videos.... in fact I could do everything the iPhone could do and more... BUT it was clunky and the screen was not large... the iPhone was a nice step forward in many ways but also a step back in functionality

3
0
TRT
Silver badge

Re: Invention of iPhone

Some lovely lady who used to work at Apple Education lent me an iPod for the day whilst she worked on some finance deal with our college. The big HDD based one that was an early pre-production model. It was the next big thing she said. The portable Minidisc killer. When she got back and asked me what I thought I said "Meh. Now if it had an FM receiver in it as well..." She said there was a WiFi connecting version in the pipeline and that FM was going to be dead in a few years, to be replaced by Digital Radio and radio over the WiFi. I scoffed and said good luck.

1
0

Re: Invention of iPhone

"The fixed price data tariff was - to me - the biggest innovation".

In my experience, the iphone killed the "all you can eat" fixed price data tariffs

I purchased a HTC Athena (T-Mobile Ameo) on a T-Mobile-Web and Walk contract in Feb 2007. I had unlimited 3.5G access (including tethering) and fixed call minutes/texts.

When it was time to upgrade, I was told that iphone 3G users were using too much data and that T-Mobile were no longer offering unlimited internet access.

2
0
Silver badge

"First smartphone"

For fun, I put "first smartphone" into Google. It wasn't Apple's. I think a BBC editor may have temporarily said that it was.

As for Apple inventing the first multitouch smartphone, though -

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-38552241 claims, with some credibility, that Apple's engineers wanted to put a keyboard on their phone. The Blackberry phone had a keyboard. But Steve Jobs wanted a phone that you could work with your finger (without a keyboard).

One finger.

If you're only using one finger, you're not actually using multi touch?

2
0
Silver badge

Re: "First smartphone"

"One finger.

If you're only using one finger, you're not actually using multi touch?"

It's optional, smartass.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: Invention of iPhone

"The apple store made it easy to purchase and install apps and media. Suddenly you didn't have to be a geek or an innovator to make your phone do something useful or fun that the manufacturer didn't want to give to everyone."

And update the software/os!

I remember what an absolute nightmare it was to update my Nokia, not to mention trying to find any usable app at all. And trying to keep purchased apps available for the future was impossible.

Unlike Apple's ecosystem.

People just don't remember how bad it was before Apple changed everything, and Google copied them.

2
0

Ironically, neither party mentions LG.

4
2

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.

15
7
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.

9
8
Bronze badge

Re: Apple invented everything...

Yup, I had Windows based smartphones made by Qtek and HTC, and my first smartphone was an Orange SPV M2000 (a Qtek 9090 ) three years before the first iPhone, and I had a O2 XDA after that, which in 2006, had GPS, MMS, and an SD card slot, which held music for my train commute.

Now I'm a fan of the Note series, I had one capacitive screen smartphone without a stylus (HTC HD2), and missed it too much.

3
0

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.

5
1
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.

4
1

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2017