IDF vs. the iPhone: Are we idiots?

I’m at Intel’s Developer Forum (IDF) today and also covering the iPhone 5 launch at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

On my way into the San Francisco for the show I saw sign after sign talking about fines for using a phone while driving and when I arrived I’d come to the conclusion that sometime between the creation of the PC and the iPhone 5 we became idiots. Let me explain.


I was around when PCs came to market and they were about getting work done. They took a series of marginal devices and practices including typewriters, calculators, rolodex file systems, and mainframe terminals and moved them into one device that did all of this stuff better. This was the birth of the Silicon Valley.

We then decided we didn’t want to just work at our desks and made PCs mobile, first creating 30 pound monsters that needed a plug and a hard wired network and eventually evolving them into the Ultrabooks Intel is showcasing at IDF, vastly better than what we started with and still focused at work.

Cell Phones, PDAs, Two Way Pagers

About when PCs were becoming portable we created cell phones so we could take our phone calls with us and have mobile offices. We seemed to be able to talk, walk, and drive at the same time and the device was focused on being small, portable, and had days of battery life. Palm came to market with the PDA and suddenly we could take our contacts and calendars with us digitally and they would stay updated and synced with our PC so we didn’t always have to carry our PCs.

Meanwhile, RIM brought us two way pagers which embraced the PDA and we could get and respond to urgent messages, we could blind type (they had keyboards) and still it appeared we could multi-task. Each step seemed to make us more capable, more productive, and no less safe.


Of course, the trouble didn’t really start until the iPhone launched. Here was a device based on the iPod, an

entertainment device, and it tried to merge all of the small mobile things around the MP3 player. Suddenly, it seemed, folks were walking into light poles, running into cars, and the signs I spoke of earlier started to show up. Theaters started putting up announcements about not using your phones in movies because they were disruptive and suddenly we were less safe.

It seemed like we suddenly couldn’t figure out for ourselves that playing with a screen device wasn’t safe (I mean you’d think we’d stop once it became clear that using an Smartphone of the iPhone class while driving was deadly and wouldn’t need a fine or that using one of these things in a movie theater destroyed the movie).

Maybe there is a reason why iPhone and idiot begin with “I” because getting one can lead to the other. Now it isn’t Apple’s fault that we are idiots but it does seem that we sure got stupid once we got our iDevices.

Wrapping Up: Taking the “I” out of Idiot

Personally, I think it is time we took a moment and remembered what we worked so hard to gain with the

PC. A class of devices that helped us work, that made us more productive and made us money and compared it to the iPhone. The iPhone is a device that is often improperly used to make us less safe, and costs us tons of money in carrier fees every year. In short while walking from IDF to the iPhone launch this morning I’m wondering if my trek isn’t a metaphor for the world which is now going in the wrong direction.

I mean, how did we go from technology that that made us write, calculate, and organize better to a

technology that forced a fine to keep us from using it while driving and killing ourselves? Something is

really wrong here.