The Moment of Awe

One of the most awe-inspiring moments of my life occurred on the morning of January 9th, 2007 as I was watching Steve Jobs introduce the original iPhone. The moment fundamentally changed the way I think about technology, and I still often think about it when putting new things into perspective. No, it wasn’t the moment Jobs introduced the phone itself. It wasn’t when he revealed what it looked like. It wasn’t even when he initially showed off the software. The moment of awe occurred when he placed his finger on the screen and flicked it upward:

The content on the screen moved up, as you’d expect, but then it continued to move after he lifted his finger off the screen! It was like magic. It feels ridiculous to think about this today, because touch-scrolling with momentum has become so ingrained in our use of mobile devices, but true kinetic scrolling was a revolutionary innovation at the time. The technology had existed, and other products had attempted similar scrolling behavior, but nothing came close to the realness of iPhone OS. I had never seen anything quite like it before–there was a human interacting directly with a computer on an intimate, physical level, and the computer was reacting by imitating the way a real, physical object would. The audience present at Jobs’ keynote was so amazed that they seemed unable to adequately respond–some people laughed while others simply gasped. Jobs continued scrolling up and down.

I remember feeling shocked and then having a huge smile on my face. I’m not sure what it was, but something profound clicked into place inside my nineteen-year-old head that morning.


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