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Apple designer's court testimony recalls birth of iPhone

Martyn Williams | April 7, 2014
Apple vice president Greg Christie recalls the first two years of iPhone development, before the phone was announced, as part of Apple's patent litigation against Samsung.

Christie's interest in programming began when he was around 8 years old. Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, had public terminals available for its mainframe computer and Christie would go there and use one.

"When it was rainy or I was bored, I would go to the computer center and get a temporary login and work on the computers there," he said. "They had little games like backgammon, hangman and a simulation of the 1975 World Series, and a tutorial on how to program, and that's when I started."

Despite teaching himself the BASIC programming language at a young age, Christie wouldn't have his own computer for many years. "The first time I heard of Apple was in junior high," he said.

"Some friend's families bought it or talked about having a computer, but for me, with all of my experience as a 13 year old, computers were old hat. It wasn't a mainframe and I wasn't impressed," Christie said. "But I guess I underestimated the strength of the personal computer."

He owned his first PC in college, when he put one together himself.

"I was into the idea of having a Mac for a while, but it wasn't for a while until I could afford one," he told the court.

That moment came in 1991 when he bought a PowerBook 140 -- one of the first PowerBook laptop computers sold by Apple.

"I found their computing experience superior to Windows at the time," he said.

When the Newton was announced in 1992, Christie said he read about it in the newspaper and was really excited by Apple's vision of the future of computing. So in 1993, when the Newton Messagepad went on sale at the Macworld expo in Boston, Christie drove the 210 kilometers (130 miles) from his home in Litchfield, Connecticut, to be among the first in the world to buy one.

"I brought my checkbook with me and spent our last $700 we had on one of the first ones," he said, referring to his joint checking account with his wife. "I also borrowed $700 for the software development kit so I could learn how to program. It was an expensive day for me."

 

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