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iGot iPhone Part 1: The Event

July 2, 2007

My twins with their iPhones

Yes, I got one.

In fact, we got 14 of the 8GB models. I love it, and as you can see, my kids love it too. 🙂 We got those ‘iGot iPhone’ shirts (with “iWas there – 6-29-07” on the back) while waiting in line at the Palo Alto store on University Avenue. This is that story – I also have a review written up.

I apologize that this isn’t technical, or even particularly well-written, but I wanted to get a brain dump of the event out so I could remember it. 🙂

The whole event was a blast, as I knew it would be. We (lots of SmugMuggers) showed up in Palo Alto on Thursday around noon. Robert Scoble and his son, Patrick, were already there, along with two others. We decided to get some lunch first and then get into line. 30 minutes later, we came back, and the Zooomr crew was in the house along with a handful of other people. We decided things were getting serious and hopped into line with numbers 16-20. (The numbers were written on some great Zooomr stickers).

We had a blast hanging out with Robert, Patrick, Kristopher, and Thomas immediately. Geeking out comes naturally to us. We were all wearing our red SmugMug hats, and people started asking us for some, so we sent a few SmugMuggers out on errands: get some hats to pass out, more chairs so we could have guests hang with us in line, a generator in case our power went out, etc. Soon enough everyone in line was sporting SmugMug hats and Zooomr stickers – how cool!

Pretty soon things started to get crazy and we had over 70 people in line. A few encounters with the police (who were very polite) later, we relocated around the corner of the store, instead of in front, where we were seriously obstructing University Avenue. Lots of press were there, from CNBC to the Palo Alto Daily News. Diggnation did a broadcast, too. I was pretty busy getting interviewed, but we also managed to get some coding and lots of testing done in line, which was fun.

People were getting hungry in line, so we called down the street to Pizza My Heart and bought pizza & drinks for the whole line. There was a real community feeling going on, and we were happy to contribute. Pizza My Heart gave us some great pizzas and a great deal.

Later in the evening, my father bumped (literally) into an old friend: Bill Atkinson, he of HyperCard and MacPaint fame, from the original Mac team. He’d come down to the store just to make sure the line wasn’t crazy, but we quickly convinced him both that it was crazy and that he needed to camp out with us. He called his daughter and asked her to bring camping gear and food, then settled in to regale us with some hardcore discussion about the AI work he’s involved with at Numenta. Turns out he’s literally helping to bring about the singularity, and it sounds amazing.

The dude is still freaking brilliant – I’m blown away every time we chat. He’s possibly the smartest person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and possibly the best photographer, too. There were lots of old Apple tales told, too, as you can imagine, including two of my favorites: the “I swore I saw windows re-drawing under other windows” story, and the “dolt” story. I don’t see them up on Folklore, so I’ll see if I can get Bill or someone to write them up.

The night went on, and we had a blast meeting new people, sharing ideas, and talking about the iPhone. Even Bill hadn’t played with or seen a real one yet, though he had a homemade one in his pocket. The day Steve announced the iPhone, Bill took a piece of wood and made a mock-up to the same exact size specifications, complete with rounded corners, printed out a high-res shot of the user interface, and glued it on top. He wanted to play with it in his hands to get a good feel for how it would work early on. The line ate it up, as you can imagine, and we all passed it from hand to hand.

Sometime around 1am, I realized that with the light and noise, we’d be lucky to sleep past 6am, so I busted out my sleeping bag and curled up next to Bill on one side, and Lee on the other. The streetlamps turned out to be the worst part – they were like laser beams boring into our eyes all night. The line started to compare notes on ways to “hack” the problem, including some suggesting shimmying up the lamp posts, but strategic hood usage from our hooded sweatshirts turned out to be the best solution.

I made it until 6:30am, so I did pretty well. Most people were up and awake by then, though, and I heard from plenty who got no sleep. Guess I was lucky. 🙂 By this time, the line was well over 120 strong and growing – and they needed food.

So we wandered down to Noah’s Bagels and told them we’d need 180 of them. The employees freaked out, and actually seemed upset with us. We nearly cleaned out the store, and the customers in line behind us weren’t so thrilled – but they could have just walked two blocks and gotten all the free ones they wanted. 🙂

Meanwhile, other fun people had been coming by. David Hornik, a smart and funny VC from August Capital, came by on Thursday night and Friday morning. Bruce Gee brought both his Segway and a SnoCone maker. And mid-afternoon, another old friend and original Mac team member, Andy Hertzfeld, showed up. We were all lamenting that Woz had gone to the Valley Fair store instead (it was closer to his house) because then we’d really have an amazing amount of early Apple talent on-hand.

Andy had actually played with an iPhone for an hour, and regaled us with tales of both the things it did great and the things that weren’t so great. We all talked about whether Steve would show up, but the rumor was that he’d gone to Manhattan for the first sale, so we guessed not.

My wife and kids came by for an hour or so, which was awesome. I missed my kids, sleeping on the street, and everyone in line loved seeing and playing with them, too.

Finally, the moment arrived. About thirty minutes before the store opened, we’d packed up all of our gear in one of our cars, and the line massively compressed – hundreds of people were basically hugging each other in line as we pushed to the front of the store. An enormous crowd of people not in line was gathered, and inevitably a few tried to sneak into line. But since we’d all been together longer than 24 hours, everyone knew their neighbors and the community easily took care of the problem. 🙂

We all counted down from 10 to 1 just like it was New Years Eve or something, and doors were finally open! Patrick went in first, to great cheers from the crowd and Apple employees alike. And then the rest of us streamed in. I’m not sure how many they let in at first, but I know we were in that batch, so it was probably 30 or so. We were screaming and cheering as we went up to our Apple sales rep and told him we’d like 14 phones (we had 7 people at 2 phones apiece). A few quick swipes of barcodes and one credit card and we were done – we had our iPhones!

After perusing the accessories for a few minutes, we figured we’d better leave to give other people a chance to get in the store. Bad move – Steve showed up literally a minute after we left. Dang. We’d gotten a chance to chat at D a few weeks ago, but my father and Steve haven’t seen each other in years and it would have been a blast to see them say hello again after so long.

And that’s it! We had a blast in line, bonded as a team, got our phones, and were a part of fanboy history.

(Oh, and the pink hair on my kiddos? My wife’s pregnant with a girl – and I started a family tradition of dyeing our hair to go along with the sex of our upcoming babies last time. The tradition continues!).

Want more? Here’s my review.

  1. July 2, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Hey Don, thanks for writing all of this down so well! It was a blast hanging-out with you and the SmugMug Crew and I hope that everything goes well with the little one on the way!

    Thanks for the good times,


    ps: still totally digging my red SmugMug cap 😉

  2. Jon
    July 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    WOW! What a great story! It sounds like everyone had a top time 🙂
    The big negative – no iPhones in the UK yet! Gutted! Roll on our launch – I plan to be near the front of the queue in London – any chance of a few SmugMug caps Don?

    Best wishes from across the pond!


  3. July 2, 2007 at 2:47 pm

    Great post. I was following the live stream that Kris had going. I am putting together a book on the iPhone and would love to have you in it. We are collecting blog posts and stories from the online community. You of course get credit and url reference.


    Drop me an email and we can talk. Thanks

  4. November 18, 2009 at 6:28 am

    Is there any question or issue that is NOT covered by a Phillip why video?

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